Was there a governing body in the first century?

THREE TOPICS WILL BE DISCUSSED IN A STRUCTURED FORMAT AS FOLLOWS:

1) What does it mean to be anointed/born again and who receives the new birth?
(2) Was there a governing body in the first century?
(3) What/who is the faithful and discreet slave according to Matthew 24 and parallels?

(1) Opening (2) Rebuttal (3) Submit 5 questions
(4) Rebuttal to answers (5) Rebuttal to response to answers
(6) Closing
Forum rules
“Sanctify the Christ as Lord in your hearts, always ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you, but doing so together with a mild temper and deep respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)

Was there a governing body in the first century?

Postby Rotherham » Fri Nov 30, 2012 8:54 am

First topic for discussion "Was there a governing body in the first century?"
In the end of the matter, knowledge is based upon acknowledgement.
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Re: Was there a governing body in the first century?

Postby Ivanmonroy » Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:52 pm

OPENING STATEMENT

Jehovah's Witnesses believe their religion is organized according to the structure found in the New Testament. In particular, my opponent will argue that just as a "governing body" existed in the first century, so too does a "Governing Body" (hereafter, GB) exist in modern times. It is thus my intent to disprove this. Not only will it be shown the GB of Jehovah's Witnesses is nothing like the Jerusalem council found in Acts 15, but also that no such "Body" existed during the era of the apostles.

In order to show the differences and dissimilarities between the biblical council found in Acts 15 and the modern day structure of the GB, it is helpful compare and contrast them.
Modern Day Governing Body

The GB of Jehovah’s Witnesses took its modern day form in the early 1970s, a fact well documented in Witness literature. The number of persons composing this Body has varied but in recent times has not exceeded more than a dozen. Additionally, one member among the group is chosen as chairman and this position is rotated annually. On December 4, 1975 six committees of the GB were formed.

1. The Chairman’s Committee made up of the current chairman, the preceding chairman, and the one next in line
2. The Writing Committee who supervises Witness publications
3. The Teaching Committee who’s responsibility is to supervise schools, conventions, and other associated coordinations
4. The Service Committee which supervises all areas of evangelizing
5. Publishing Committee operates all factories involved in printing, shipping, and publishing
6. The Personnel Committee oversees assistance to Bethel families

As one publication puts it, “all activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses were brought under the supervision of the six committees of the Governing Body.” Indeed the importance of the Body is readily apparent for Witness worship, service, evangelism, structure, organization, belief, teaching, and leadership. Given the close supervision the GB has upon all aspects of a Witness’s religious life, it is not a stretch to suggest a Witness’s beliefs must be derived from or at least approved by the GB. In fact, it is said a congregation of Christians cannot prosper spiritually if not lead by the GB.

Jerusalem Council—Acts Chapter 15

To better appreciate the events unfolding in Acts 15, I find that it would be best to give commentary text by text insofar as those texts are relevant to the subject. Thus, here is a run-through (all quotes are from the New World Translation [hereafter, NWT]):

Acts 15:1
And certain men came down from Ju•de′a and began to teach the brothers: “Unless YOU get circumcised according to the custom of Moses, YOU cannot be saved.”


As the account makes clear, it was men from Judea that were the source of the problem. They began teaching “the brothers” that they must get circumcised in order to be saved.

Acts 15:2
But when there had occurred no little dissension and disputing by Paul and Bar′na•bas with them, they arranged for Paul and Bar′na•bas and some others of them to go up to the apostles and older men in Jerusalem regarding this dispute.


Paul and Barnabas challenged the teaching these men had brought with them from Judea. Thus, these men made arrangements for Paul, Barnabas, and “some others” to go and discuss this with the apostles and “older men” who resided in Jerusalem. There is no mention at all about the “apostles” or “older men” being part of or composing a centralized governing body.

Acts 15:3
Accordingly, after being conducted partway by the congregation, these men continued on their way through both Phoe•ni′cia and Sa•mar′i•a, relating in detail the conversion of people of the nations, and they were causing great joy to all the brothers


The congregation at Antioch, from which Paul and Barnabas were from, sent them on a journey to Jerusalem. The congregation in Antioch made this decision autonomously, under the direction of no centralized governing body. They made their own decision to send them.

Acts 15:4
On arriving in Jerusalem they were kindly received by the congregation and the apostles and the older men, and they recounted the many things God had done by means of them.


After Paul and Barnabas had arrived in Jerusalem, they were received by the congregation, the apostles, and the older men. Again, no mention of these being a centralized governing body that held close supervision upon all congregations worldwide.

Acts 15:5
Yet, some of those of the sect of the Pharisees that had believed rose up from their seats and said: “It is necessary to circumcise them and charge them to observe the law of Moses.”


According to this text, believing members of the Pharisees were part of the church in Jerusalem. They believed Gentiles needed to be circumcised and observe the Law.

Acts 15:6
And the apostles and the older men gathered together to see about this affair.


The apostles and the elders gathered to discuss the matter of circumcision. As we will see further down the discussion, this gathering was not private behind closed doors. It was an open discussion. And once more, nothing about the apostles and the older men forming a centralized governing authority who supervised any and every ecclesiastical activity.

Acts 15:7-11
Now when much disputing had taken place, Peter rose and said to them: “Men, brothers, YOU well know that from early days God made the choice among YOU that through my mouth people of the nations should hear the word of the good news and believe; and God, who knows the heart, bore witness by giving them the holy spirit, just as he did to us also. And he made no distinction at all between us and them, but purified their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are YOU making a test of God by imposing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our forefathers nor we were capable of bearing? On the contrary, we trust to get saved through the undeserved kindness of the Lord Jesus in the same way as those people also.”


We first learn there was “much disputing” over this issue. Obviously, open discussion was allowed and involved. Peter’s argument that settled the matter was a powerful one: If the Gentiles received the holy spirit without being circumcised or keeping the Law, why are you (=believing Pharisees) demanding circumcision and Law observance? The holy spirit, and thus salvation, was accessible without these. Salvation was not dependent upon these things; instead Peter says we get “saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus.”

Acts 15:12
At that the entire multitude became silent, and they began to listen to Bar′na•bas and Paul relate the many signs and portents that God did through them among the nations.


As we see, there was an “entire multitude” present. They were ‘listening to Paul and Barnabas’ as they were discussing the issue. So the discussion was not behind closed doors nor was the issue resolved by only a select few. It was a congregational matter.

Acts 15:22
Then the apostles and the older men together with the whole congregation favored sending chosen men from among them to Antioch along with Paul and Bar′na•bas, namely, Judas who was called Bar′sab•bas and Silas, leading men among the brothers;


Having arrived at a conclusion, the apostles, the elders, and the “whole congregation” collectively chose to send men from Jerusalem to Antioch to accompany Paul and Barnabas. These are explicitly said to be Judas and Silas. The council arrived at a conclusion collectively with open discussion. It was not behind closed doors. It was not in the hands of a few men. As the account relates, the “whole congregation” at Jerusalem was present and agreed with the decision.

Acts 15:23-29
“The apostles and the older men, brothers, to those brothers in Antioch and Syria and Ci•li′cia who are from the nations: Greetings! Since we have heard that some from among us have caused YOU trouble with speeches, trying to subvert YOUR souls, although we did not give them any instructions, we have come to a unanimous accord and have favored choosing men to send to YOU together with our loved ones, Bar′na•bas and Paul, men that have delivered up their souls for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are therefore dispatching Judas and Silas, that they also may report the same things by word. For the holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to YOU, except these necessary things, to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication. If YOU carefully keep yourselves from these things, YOU will prosper. Good health to YOU!”


After the council, which included the entire Jerusalem congregation, had come to a decision, they decided to write a letter to the congregations in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia. They report that “some from among us,” that is, from Jerusalem, had started causing trouble in Antioch.

Now, if this council is a centralized governing body then this means that those who came teaching circumcision were also members of this body; hence they were “from among us.” Yet, Acts 15:1 says nothing about these men being part of a governing body.

The letter the council wrote to these congregations clarifies that the teachings of these men do not reflect their own. They do not support their teachings.

Acts 15:30-35
Accordingly, when these men were let go, they went down to Antioch, and they gathered the multitude together and handed them the letter. After reading it, they rejoiced over the encouragement. And Judas and Silas, since they themselves were also prophets, encouraged the brothers with many a discourse and strengthened them. So, when they had passed some time, they were let go in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them out. —— However, Paul and Bar′na•bas continued spending time in Antioch teaching and declaring, with many others also, the good news of the word of Jehovah.


Having written the letter and formed a conclusion on the matter, they traveled to Antioch to deliver the message. The congregation at Antioch was relieved to hear that the men’s teachings did not reflect the belief of the apostles in Jerusalem.

Summary of Acts 15

What occurred in Acts 15 can be summarized fairly simply. Men came down from Jerusalem to Antioch teaching that Gentiles needed to be circumcised for salvation. Paul and others go up to Jerusalem to talk about the issue. Collectively, all in Jerusalem say, no, this is not our stance on the matter and decide to write several congregations about it. That is all that is happening here. There is no GB akin to what modern day Jehovah’s Witnesses are used to. It simply isn’t to be found in Acts 15, therefore it is up to my opponent to not only prove that a body is to be found there but to also refute the arguments presented.

Ecclesiastical Autonomy

As the sources referenced above demonstrate, the modern day GB of Jehovah’s Witnesses has tremendous control over congregational matters. From beliefs to practices, to evangelism to worship. Thus, below I will highlight the independent ecclesiastical activities of the early Church in contradistinction from the modern day GB.

Acts 11:22
The account about them got to the ears of the congregation that was in Jerusalem, and they sent out Bar′na•bas as far as Antioch


The congregation in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch. This shows individual congregations sent missionaries to other congregations autonomously. Moreover, the congregation at Jerusalem did this apart from a governing body or committee.

Acts 15:36
Now after some days Paul said to Bar′na•bas: “Above all things, let us return and visit the brothers in every one of the cities in which we published the word of Jehovah to see how they are.”


According to this text, Paul’s missionary activities were independently pursued. It was his decision to “visit the brothers in every” city that they had evangelized. He did this apart from a GB or committee. Witnesses today have no such freedoms or authority to do so. In fact, Witnesses must submit applications and go through further procedures.

Acts 20:22-23, 29-32
And now, look! bound in the spirit, I am journeying to Jerusalem, although not knowing the things that will happen to me in it, except that from city to city the holy spirit repeatedly bears witness to me as it says that bonds and tribulations are waiting for me…I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among YOU and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among YOU yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.“Therefore keep awake, and bear in mind that for three years, night and day, I did not quit admonishing each one with tears. And now I commit YOU to God and to the word of his undeserved kindness, which [word] can build YOU up and give YOU the inheritance among all the sanctified ones.


According to Acts 20, Paul was essentially letting the congregation in Ephesus know that he would he would not return from his journey to Jerusalem. Did he then tell the Christians in Ephesus to follow the instruction of the GB, its committees, or representatives? No. Rather, as the account relates he commended them to God and to his word. If a GB existed, why not tell them to follow or obey the GB?

Titus 1:5
For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might correct the things that were defective and might make appointments of older men in city after city, as I gave you orders;


Paul left Titus in Crete so that he (=Titus) would appoint elders in every city. Elder appointments were made independently of any governing body or committee. As the text states, Titus was free to appoint elders as long as they fit the moral/ethical criteria provided.

Conclusion

In conclusion, then, we note the existence of a centralized governing body in the first century is lacking. What we have in Acts 15 is a council composed of the entire Jerusalem Church, overseen by the apostles and elders, who decided on a matter in open dialogue—not in private. The congregations had authority to send missionaries and make appointments autonomously. None of these things are practiced by today’s modern Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
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OPENING STATEMENT---Rotherham

Postby Rotherham » Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:59 pm

When it comes to the 'body of Christ', God stated, that within that body, he appointed some as Apostles, then prophets and then teachers. (Eph 4:11 and context) At the time this was written, the Apostles were still alive, and there were living inspired prophets as well and evangeliers and teachers.

Eph 4:11 And he gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelizers, some as shepherds and teachers,12with a view to the readjustment of the holy ones, for ministerial work, for the building up of the body of the Christ,13until we all attain to the oneness in the faith and in the accurate knowledge of the Son of God, to a full‐grown man, to the measure of stature that belongs to the fullness of the Christ;

What did Paul say was the responsibility of these “gifts in men”? He clearly stated that it was to readjust the holy ones, to keep them united, until they all attained to the oneness of the faith, into the full grown man. The point being that these gifts in men had the authority and the responsibility to do these things in the first century.

Hebrews 13:17 told the first century Christians to be obedient to those who were taking the lead among them. Hebrews tells us that those ones 'will render an account for our souls'. Who would that have been in the 1st century? Would it not be those gifts in men, the Apostles, who were clealy acting as a governing element among the congregations of Christianity? Would it also not be true that these "gifts in men" would strive to be of the 'same mind and the same line of thought with no divisions’ according 1 Cor. 1:10 and context?

Paul said that there were those who gave ORDERS in connection with 'how to walk and be pleasing to God';

1 Thessalonians 4:1,2-

Finally, brothers, we request ​YOU​ and exhort ​YOU​ by the Lord Jesus, just as ​YOU​ received [the instruction] from us on how ​YOU​ ought to walk and please God, just as ​YOU​ are in fact walking, that ​YOU​ would keep on doing it more fully.2For ​YOU​ know the orders we gave ​YOU​ through the Lord Jesus.

The first century Christians were said to adhere to the 'teachings of the APOSTLES'. (Acts 2:42)

Acts 2:42

And they continued devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to sharing [with one another], to taking of meals and to prayers.

Was this different then the teachings of the SCRIPTURES? No, because the Apostles adhered TO the scriptures. It is abundantly clear that the Apostles had a special authority in the 1st century congregation.

In reality, the idea of a governing element, made up of men, is everywhere apparent in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Consider the following points and questions:

Romans 16:17
17 Now I exhort YOU, brothers, to keep your eye on those who cause divisions and occasions for stumbling contrary to the teaching that YOU have learned, and avoid them.

Divisions in 'what?
What teachings are they in reference to? Would it not be the teachings of the Apostles? (Acts 2:42)

2 Thessalonians 3:6
6 Now we are giving YOU orders, brothers, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to withdraw from every brother walking disorderly and not according to the tradition YOU received from us.

Who is the WE giving the orders if there is no such thing as a Christian governing element?
What is it they received from the US that they needed to adhere to?

2 Thessalonians 3:13-15
13 For YOUR part, brothers, do not give up in doing right. 14 But if anyone is not obedient to our word through this letter, keep this one marked, stop associating with him, that he may become ashamed. 15 And yet do not be considering him as an enemy, but continue admonishing him as a brother.

Where did this letter come from that they had to be obedient to?
Why was it spoken of as OUR WORD, and not God's word? Who was the OUR?
Where was this obvious authority coming from?

Titus 3:10-11
10 As for a man that promotes a sect, reject him after a first and a second admonition; 11 knowing that such a man has been turned out of the way and is sinning, he being self-condemned.

How would you know if someone was promoting a sect if there was no governing element in regard to doctrine?
Who determined what the 'promotion of a sect' entailed?

Titus 2:15
15 Keep on speaking these things and exhorting and reproving with full authority to command. Let no man ever despise you.

Who had “full authority to command” and what did that mean for those under their authority?


Notice 1 Thessalonians 4:1,2-

Finally, brothers, we request ​YOU​ and exhort ​YOU​ by the Lord Jesus, just as ​YOU​ received [the instruction] from us on how ​YOU​ ought to walk and please God, just as ​YOU​ are in fact walking, that ​YOU​ would keep on doing it more fully.2For ​YOU​ know the orders we gave ​YOU​ through the Lord Jesus.

Throughout his letters to the different congregations we here Paul speaking of the 'orders' or 'instructions' that the congregations had been given by the WE. Who was the WE?
Did you notice Paul didn't say to them "God instructed you", but he said "WE" instructed you? Why did he not say 'God instructed them'?
Why does it say that THEY INSTRUCTED them on HOW TO WALK AND BE PLEASING TO GOD?

It should be readily apparent that the Apostles were speaking with authority to the congregations scattered about.

Titus 1:5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might correct the things that were defective and might make appointments of older men in city after city, as I gave you orders.

Correction. Appointment. Again, clealry indicative of an element of authority.

And again, Hebrews 13:17 "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you."

If there was no governing element within the 1st century congregation, who were the leaders that they were to submit to and obey?
How were these ones responsible for the souls of the congregation to the extent that they would have to make an accounting for them?

As well, Acts 16:4 tells us that Paul and others in a 'town to town' fashion, delivered the DECREES reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to OBEY."

Why were they called DECREES?

Why were the other congregations expected to OBEY those DECREES? Why did they have to obey the decisions reached by the Apostles and older men?

Is it not clear that the Apostles and older men in Jerusalem represented an authority in the 1st century church?

This idea of a governing element within Christianity is embedded within many passages of the Bible.

Consider:
Paul said at 1Cor. 13:11: "Finally, brothers, continue to rejoice, to be readjusted, to be comforted, to think in agreement, to live peacably, and the God of love and of peace will be with you."

"The apostles and older men... to those brothers in Antioch... Since we have heard that some from among us have caused you trouble with speeches, trying to subvert your souls, although we did not give them ANY INSTRUCTIONS" - Acts 15:23-24

Titus 1:5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might correct the things that were defective and might make appointments of older men in city after city, as I GAVE YOU ORDERS.

2 Thes. 2:1,2 However, brothers, respecting the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we request of ​YOU 2 not to be quickly shaken from ​YOUR​ reason nor to be excited either through an inspired expression or through a verbal message or through a letter as though from us, to the effect that the day of Jehovah is here.

Many more examples can be offered if necessary. But a careful reading of the Christian Greek Scriptures will reveal in undeniable fashion that the first century congregation continuously functioned with the backdrop of a governing element within it, primarily recognized through the Apostles. After the Apostles would pass from the earthly scene, those "gifts in men" and the function they performed would be bestowed upon evangelizers and teachers. These ones would continue in that readjustment process until the entire Christian congregation would come to the oneness of faith, which I think we all know, has not yet been achieved. So it is imperative that Christians identify who represents those "gifts in men" today.

Regards,
Rotherham
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Re: ROTHERHAM'S REBUTTAL TO IVAN'S OPENING STATEMENT

Postby Rotherham » Mon Dec 03, 2012 3:58 pm

I believe that Ivan has made a number of missteps in his view of the structure of the first century congregations. I will respond in a point/counterpoint fashion below.

Jehovah's Witnesses believe their religion is organized according to the structure found in the New Testament. In particular, my opponent will argue that just as a "governing body" existed in the first century, so too does a "Governing Body" (hereafter, GB) exist in modern times. It is thus my intent to disprove this. Not only will it be shown the GB of Jehovah's Witnesses is nothing like the Jerusalem council found in Acts 15, but also that no such "Body" existed during the era of the apostles.

In order to show the differences and dissimilarities between the biblical council found in Acts 15 and the modern day structure of the GB, it is helpful compare and contrast them.
Modern Day Governing Body

The GB of Jehovah’s Witnesses took its modern day form in the early 1970s, a fact well documented in Witness literature. The number of persons composing this Body has varied but in recent times has not exceeded more than a dozen. Additionally, one member among the group is chosen as chairman and this position is rotated annually. On December 4, 1975 six committees of the GB were formed.

1. The Chairman’s Committee made up of the current chairman, the preceding chairman, and the one next in line
2. The Writing Committee who supervises Witness publications
3. The Teaching Committee who’s responsibility is to supervise schools, conventions, and other associated coordinations
4. The Service Committee which supervises all areas of evangelizing
5. Publishing Committee operates all factories involved in printing, shipping, and publishing
6. The Personnel Committee oversees assistance to Bethel families

As one publication puts it, “all activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses were brought under the supervision of the six committees of the Governing Body.” Indeed the importance of the Body is readily apparent for Witness worship, service, evangelism, structure, organization, belief, teaching, and leadership. Given the close supervision the GB has upon all aspects of a Witness’s religious life, it is not a stretch to suggest a Witness’s beliefs must be derived from or at least approved by the GB. In fact, it is said a congregation of Christians cannot prosper spiritually if not lead by the GB.


I wont concern myself too much with these opening statements since our discussion is to be about the first century congregations and whether or not they contained a centralized governing element. Needless to say, we do indeed try to establish a pattern of governance that would be compatible with what existed in the first century. Are we claiming exact parallels? No. Some details are given as to how the first century congregations were governed and some are not, but any arrangement today that would reflect, to a reasonable degree, the proper spirit and operation of that governing element would suffice for modern Christianity.

Jerusalem Council—Acts Chapter 15

To better appreciate the events unfolding in Acts 15, I find that it would be best to give commentary text by text insofar as those texts are relevant to the subject. Thus, here is a run-through (all quotes are from the New World Translation [hereafter, NWT]):

Acts 15:1
And certain men came down from Ju•de′a and began to teach the brothers: “Unless YOU get circumcised according to the custom of Moses, YOU cannot be saved.”

As the account makes clear, it was men from Judea that were the source of the problem. They began teaching “the brothers” that they must get circumcised in order to be saved.

Acts 15:2
But when there had occurred no little dissension and disputing by Paul and Bar′na•bas with them, they arranged for Paul and Bar′na•bas and some others of them to go up to the apostles and older men in Jerusalem regarding this dispute.

Paul and Barnabas challenged the teaching these men had brought with them from Judea. Thus, these men made arrangements for Paul, Barnabas, and “some others” to go and discuss this with the apostles and “older men” who resided in Jerusalem. There is no mention at all about the “apostles” or “older men” being part of or composing a centralized governing body.


Please simply note at this time that it was just to the Apostles and older men in Jerusalem that they went in order to SETTLE the dispute. Questions naturally arise if these ones had no special authority or recognized weight in these matters. For instance, why take it them? If congregations were completely autonomous with these kinds of doctrinal decisions, why was there even a dispute? Should they not have been allowed to continue in their belief if that is what their local congregation had decided upon? Why consult the Apostles and older men of Jerusalem for a decision? What authority or right did they possess to make doctrinal decisions for another Christian group or congregation?

The very fact that they felt the need and decided to go to these ones, who were of a DIFFERENT congregation, to settle the dispute demonstrates that they at least entertained the idea that these ones carried some weight when it came to matters such as this. To claim there's no mention of them being a governing body is really entirely irrelevant. It is the context that will reveal their authority or lack thereof.


Acts 15:3
Accordingly, after being conducted partway by the congregation, these men continued on their way through both Phoe•ni′cia and Sa•mar′i•a, relating in detail the conversion of people of the nations, and they were causing great joy to all the brothers

The congregation at Antioch, from which Paul and Barnabas were from, sent them on a journey to Jerusalem. The congregation in Antioch made this decision autonomously, under the direction of no centralized governing body. They made their own decision to send them.


Once again the question arises, if there was no special recognition of authority for the Apostles and older men in Jerusalem, why would a legally autonomous congregation ask a group of men in another congregation to rule on a matter? That action denies the very concept of congregational autonomy. It demonstrates that at the very least, the brothers in Antioch viewed the Apostles and older men in Jerusalem as possessing weight in these matters.

Really, if Antioch was an autonomous congregation, able to decide on their own doctrinal matters, Paul and Barnabas should have been regarded as promoting a sect against their view of the necessity of circumcision. If Antioch had the autonomous right to determine that for their autonomous congregation, why were Paul and Barnabas allowed to dispute the matter so vigorously? Should not the Antioch congregation have treated them as causing "division" or "promoting a sect"? Why take it elsewhere?


Acts 15:4
On arriving in Jerusalem they were kindly received by the congregation and the apostles and the older men, and they recounted the many things God had done by means of them.

After Paul and Barnabas had arrived in Jerusalem, they were received by the congregation, the apostles, and the older men. Again, no mention of these being a centralized governing body that held close supervision upon all congregations worldwide.

Acts 15:5
Yet, some of those of the sect of the Pharisees that had believed rose up from their seats and said: “It is necessary to circumcise them and charge them to observe the law of Moses.”

According to this text, believing members of the Pharisees were part of the church in Jerusalem. They believed Gentiles needed to be circumcised and observe the Law.

Acts 15:6
And the apostles and the older men gathered together to see about this affair.

The apostles and the elders gathered to discuss the matter of circumcision. As we will see further down the discussion, this gathering was not private behind closed doors. It was an open discussion. And once more, nothing about the apostles and the older men forming a centralized governing authority who supervised any and every ecclesiastical activity.


Again, the fact that it was not spelled out in words that they were a governing element is irrelevant. Context will decide for us in the end.

The Pharisees who spoke up in favor of circumcision were evidently allowed to join the Apostles and older men in order to settle the dispute. Since those Pharisees would represent the views of those promoting circumcision, it is logical that they would be joining the meeting with those who were being called upon to decide. Nothing indicates that the entire congregation was present. As verse 6 clearly states, it was just the Apostles and older men of Jerusalem who were going to decide. Otherwise, why not mention everyone who was present?


Acts 15:7-11
Now when much disputing had taken place, Peter rose and said to them: “Men, brothers, YOU well know that from early days God made the choice among YOU that through my mouth people of the nations should hear the word of the good news and believe; and God, who knows the heart, bore witness by giving them the holy spirit, just as he did to us also. And he made no distinction at all between us and them, but purified their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are YOU making a test of God by imposing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our forefathers nor we were capable of bearing? On the contrary, we trust to get saved through the undeserved kindness of the Lord Jesus in the same way as those people also.”

We first learn there was “much disputing” over this issue. Obviously, open discussion was allowed and involved. Peter’s argument that settled the matter was a powerful one: If the Gentiles received the holy spirit without being circumcised or keeping the Law, why are you (=believing Pharisees) demanding circumcision and Law observance? The holy spirit, and thus salvation, was accessible without these. Salvation was not dependent upon these things; instead Peter says we get “saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus.”


There's not much dispute over this section. Naturally, open discussion took place among those present at this meeting.

Acts 15:12
At that the entire multitude became silent, and they began to listen to Bar′na•bas and Paul relate the many signs and portents that God did through them among the nations.

As we see, there was an “entire multitude” present. They were ‘listening to Paul and Barnabas’ as they were discussing the issue. So the discussion was not behind closed doors nor was the issue resolved by only a select few. It was a congregational matter.


As far as "multitude" goes, it does not in every context mean a great number of people, but as is revealed by Thayer's lexicon, it can simply mean "the whole number, the whole multitude, the assemblage". At Acts 28:6 it is used in reference to a mere bundle of sticks gathered by Paul. So, yes, there was an assemblage of men; Apostles, older men, Paul, Barnabas and some former Pharisees, and they all became silent when Paul and Barnabas began to speak.

But there is something I have to mention again when Ivan states :"It was a CONGREGATIONAL matter." The obvious question is; "Then why is it now involving more than one congregation? And to top it off, why, according to Acts 16:4,5 were these DECREES given to all the other congregation for them to KEEP? This was clearly a multi-congregational matter and clearly the decisions made by those older men and Apostles carried an authoritative element behind them. This once again reminds us of Acts 2:42 where it states that the early Christians ADHERED to the TEACHINGS of the Apostles. Why? Why did they have this authority and responsibility?


Acts 15:22
Then the apostles and the older men together with the whole congregation favored sending chosen men from among them to Antioch along with Paul and Bar′na•bas, namely, Judas who was called Bar′sab•bas and Silas, leading men among the brothers;

Having arrived at a conclusion, the apostles, the elders, and the “whole congregation” collectively chose to send men from Jerusalem to Antioch to accompany Paul and Barnabas. These are explicitly said to be Judas and Silas. The council arrived at a conclusion collectively with open discussion. It was not behind closed doors. It was not in the hands of a few men. As the account relates, the “whole congregation” at Jerusalem was present and agreed with the decision.


Even though the congregation was in on the decision as to who to send to Antioch, there's no reason to believe that they were also at the meeting where the decision was made. We should note that in chapter 16:4,5 it was the DECREES decided upon by "who?" By the Apostles and older men of Jerusalem. It ended up being unanimous among all at that meeting, and the final authority is spelled out to be the Apostles and older men.

Acts 15:23-29
“The apostles and the older men, brothers, to those brothers in Antioch and Syria and Ci•li′cia who are from the nations: Greetings! Since we have heard that some from among us have caused YOU trouble with speeches, trying to subvert YOUR souls, although we did not give them any instructions, we have come to a unanimous accord and have favored choosing men to send to YOU together with our loved ones, Bar′na•bas and Paul, men that have delivered up their souls for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are therefore dispatching Judas and Silas, that they also may report the same things by word. For the holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to YOU, except these necessary things, to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication. If YOU carefully keep yourselves from these things, YOU will prosper. Good health to YOU!”

After the council, which included the entire Jerusalem congregation, had come to a decision, they decided to write a letter to the congregations in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia. They report that “some from among us,” that is, from Jerusalem, had started causing trouble in Antioch.

Now, if this council is a centralized governing body then this means that those who came teaching circumcision were also members of this body; hence they were “from among us.” Yet, Acts 15:1 says nothing about these men being part of a governing body.

The letter the council wrote to these congregations clarifies that the teachings of these men do not reflect their own. They do not support their teachings.


There is no doubt that some of the ones causing division over circumcision were indeed older men. And it is true that Apostles were older men but certainly not all older men were Apostles. Being older men would not necessitate them being part of the governing element. Plus, they were said to come from Judea which covered a large area and included MANY congregations. Paul said at Gal. 1:21,22 "After that I went into the regions of Syria and of Ci·li′cia. But I was unknown by face to the CONGREGATIONS of Ju·de′a that were in union with Christ."

Nothing necessitates that these ones were even from Jerusalem. And you seem to be agreeing that the teachings of the Apostles held dominance. Why would the teachings of the Apostles hold so much weight if they had no authority except in their autonomous congregation?

You should also note that the Apostles complained that these ones received "NO INSTRUCTIONS" from them to teach this circumcision necessity for salvation. If congregations are autonomous, then why even mention the fact that these ones did not RECEIVE INSTRUCTIONS to teach what they taught about circumcision? That complaint alone once again bespeaks the authority invested in the Apostles and older men in Jerusalem.


Acts 15:30-35
Accordingly, when these men were let go, they went down to Antioch, and they gathered the multitude together and handed them the letter. After reading it, they rejoiced over the encouragement. And Judas and Silas, since they themselves were also prophets, encouraged the brothers with many a discourse and strengthened them. So, when they had passed some time, they were let go in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them out. —— However, Paul and Bar′na•bas continued spending time in Antioch teaching and declaring, with many others also, the good news of the word of Jehovah.

Having written the letter and formed a conclusion on the matter, they traveled to Antioch to deliver the message. The congregation at Antioch was relieved to hear that the men’s teachings did not reflect the belief of the apostles in Jerusalem.


I am surprised to see that you do not recognize that you are supporting in part the very idea you seem to disagree with. Notice you said: "the men’s teachings did not reflect the belief of the apostles in Jerusalem." But, so what? If congregational autonomy is the key, then didn't the older men in that congregation have the right to make their own decisions as to what was correct or not? Why be bothered with another congregation and their view? Plus, why take those decisions, label them as DECREES and then tell the rest of the congregations to KEEP them? That's the very opposite scenario we would expect if congregations were completely autonomous. They simply would not worry about what other congregations taught. And they certainly would not make a decision and then expect all the other congregations to abide by it, making it a DECREE.


Summary of Acts 15

What occurred in Acts 15 can be summarized fairly simply. Men came down from Jerusalem to Antioch teaching that Gentiles needed to be circumcised for salvation. Paul and others go up to Jerusalem to talk about the issue. Collectively, all in Jerusalem say, no, this is not our stance on the matter and decide to write several congregations about it. That is all that is happening here. There is no GB akin to what modern day Jehovah’s Witnesses are used to. It simply isn’t to be found in Acts 15, therefore it is up to my opponent to not only prove that a body is to be found there but to also refute the arguments presented.


But what you describe is actually indicative of the Apostles having an authority in regard to teachings. Their DECREES, as you yourself note, were sent to the other congregations for OBSERVANCE. That bespeaks the very idea of a centralized authority.


Ecclesiastical Autonomy

As the sources referenced above demonstrate, the modern day GB of Jehovah’s Witnesses has tremendous control over congregational matters. From beliefs to practices, to evangelism to worship. Thus, below I will highlight the independent ecclesiastical activities of the early Church in contradistinction from the modern day GB.

Acts 11:22
The account about them got to the ears of the congregation that was in Jerusalem, and they sent out Bar′na•bas as far as Antioch

The congregation in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch. This shows individual congregations sent missionaries to other congregations autonomously. Moreover, the congregation at Jerusalem did this apart from a governing body or committee.


You seem to drift again from the topic that we are supposed to be debating , which is whether or not there a first century governing element or governing body of men. So this really isn't related to that as much as it is examining the way JWs do things today. But regardless, not every assignment must involve our governing body today. Believe it or not, there is certainly a reasonable level of autonomy among the congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Acts 15:36
Now after some days Paul said to Bar′na•bas: “Above all things, let us return and visit the brothers in every one of the cities in which we published the word of Jehovah to see how they are.”

According to this text, Paul’s missionary activities were independently pursued. It was his decision to “visit the brothers in every” city that they had evangelized. He did this apart from a GB or committee. Witnesses today have no such freedoms or authority to do so. In fact, Witnesses must submit applications and go through further procedures.


Again, not all decisions of this nature go through our governing body. But the fact is, Paul was a traveling representative of the governing body and that is where he acquired the authority he had to give orders to different individuals and different congregations. In Galatians chapter 2 Paul is extended the "right hand of sharing" with the Apostles in Jerusalem. Where else would he have acquired the authority to tell the congregations that he wrote to what to do? it? Whether his choices were completely autonomous as far as traveling is certainly not stated, but we do know that the holy spirit was also involved. But if we today decide to do things in a more organized fashion because of the great scope and diversity of the work that must be done, then there is certainly no Biblical issue with that.

Acts 20:22-23, 29-32
And now, look! bound in the spirit, I am journeying to Jerusalem, although not knowing the things that will happen to me in it, except that from city to city the holy spirit repeatedly bears witness to me as it says that bonds and tribulations are waiting for me…I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among YOU and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among YOU yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.“Therefore keep awake, and bear in mind that for three years, night and day, I did not quit admonishing each one with tears. And now I commit YOU to God and to the word of his undeserved kindness, which [word] can build YOU up and give YOU the inheritance among all the sanctified ones.

According to Acts 20, Paul was essentially letting the congregation in Ephesus know that he would he would not return from his journey to Jerusalem. Did he then tell the Christians in Ephesus to follow the instruction of the GB, its committees, or representatives? No. Rather, as the account relates he commended them to God and to his word. If a GB existed, why not tell them to follow or obey the GB?


Since the scriptures themselves demonstrate that there is such a thing as a governing body, adhering to God and his word would mean adhering to that governing body. Revisiting my opening statement should make that abundantly clear but here are a few reminders of what we find.

Eph 4:11 And he gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelizers, some as shepherds and teachers,12 with a view to the readjustment of the holy ones, for ministerial work, for the building up of the body of the Christ,13until we all attain to the oneness in the faith and in the accurate knowledge of the Son of God, to a full‐grown man, to the measure of stature that belongs to the fullness of the Christ;

Hebrews 13:17
"Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you."

1 Thessalonians 4:1,2-
Finally, brothers, we request YOU and exhort YOU by the Lord Jesus, just as YOU received [the instruction] from us on how YOU ought to walk and please God, just as YOU are in fact walking, that YOU would keep on doing it more fully.2For YOU know the orders we gave YOU through the Lord Jesus.

Titus 2:15
15 Keep on speaking these things and exhorting and reproving with full authority to command. Let no man ever despise you.

Titus 3:10-11
10 As for a man that promotes a sect, reject him after a first and a second admonition; 11 knowing that such a man has been turned out of the way and is sinning, he being self-condemned.

Romans 16:17
17 Now I exhort YOU, brothers, to keep your eye on those who cause divisions and occasions for stumbling contrary to the teaching that YOU have learned, and avoid them.

Acts 2:42
And they continued devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to sharing [with one another], to taking of meals and to prayers.

The teaching of a governing element within Christianity practically jumps off the page at you with verses like this, and there are more as well.


Titus 1:5
For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might correct the things that were defective and might make appointments of older men in city after city, as I gave you orders;

Paul left Titus in Crete so that he (=Titus) would appoint elders in every city. Elder appointments were made independently of any governing body or committee. As the text states, Titus was free to appoint elders as long as they fit the moral/ethical criteria provided.


But this bespeaks an authority held by the Apostle Paul. Even Paul recognized the authority of the Apostles as is evident from Galatians the 2cnd chapter. There he wanted to approach the Apostles and relate to them what he had been doing so that he could be assured that "HE WAS NOT RUNNING IN VAIN". It was at this time that the Apostles extended to him the "right hand of sharing" with them. From that point forward we see that Paul demonstrated authority toward many congregations, speaking of orders and letters from WE or US. He was clearly acting with authority from a group, not autonomously.

Conclusion

In conclusion, then, we note the existence of a centralized governing body in the first century is lacking. What we have in Acts 15 is a council composed of the entire Jerusalem Church, overseen by the apostles and elders, who decided on a matter in open dialogue—not in private. The congregations had authority to send missionaries and make appointments autonomously. None of these things are practiced by today’s modern Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
[/quote]

I have a feeling that this discussion should have been named something else. It was entitled "was there a first century governing body". What it has turned into is "how well do JWs pattern the first century governing body". The above conclusion is wrong on nearly every count. The internal evidence is overwhelmingly in support of the fact that there would be "gifts in men" who would have authority over teachings and also giving orders as to how to appoint older men in the congregations just like Paul did for Titus, even giving instructions to congregations on how to WALK and BE PLEASING to God, as witnessed by Paul's words to the Thessalonians. As mentioned, not everything that Ivan evidently imagines, is controlled by the governing body. There is a reasonable amount of autonomy and a Biblical recognition of authority.
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Re: Was there a governing body in the first century?

Postby Ivanmonroy » Mon Dec 03, 2012 9:18 pm

REBUTTAL TO ROTHERHAM'S OPENING STATEMENT

Something needs to be said about the debate topic before moving on. The main issue being debated is NOT if there was a “governing element” in the first century but if there was a “governing body.” The two are not synonymous. Of course there were Apostles, elders, bishops, missionaries, overseers, etcetera. This is not the issue. Given the existence of the Apostles, who would deny a governing element?

(Rotherham’s comments will be highlighted in red, mine in standard black.)

What did Paul say was the responsibility of these “gifts in men”? He clearly stated that it was to readjust the holy ones, to keep them united, until they all attained to the oneness of the faith, into the full grown man. The point being that these gifts in men had the authority and the responsibility to do these things in the first century.

The translation of Ephesians 4:8 in the NWT is highly suspect. It is the only translation I have been able to find which renders the phrase as “gifts in men.” According to the footnote in the NWT, this translation agrees with the MT and LXX. The problem is that Paul didn’t follow the LXX verbatim. He changed the wording of the LXX (if he used the LXX at all) in a number of places, but specifically he changed en anthrōpō to tois anthrōpois. Quite literally, “to men.” So, Paul is saying Jesus gave gifts TO men, not “in” men.

The “gifts” that Jesus gave to men was the gift of the holy spirit and grace (Cf. Eph 2:8).
Additionally, the NWT’s “readjustments” is rendered as “equip” in most other translations, with further support being found in BDAG.

So the meaning is that Jesus Christ gave gifts to men, which gifts these men were to use to equip the saints for ministerial work.

But this aside, I entire agree with you that these men had authority and responsibility. However, I fail to see how this proves they formed a centralized governing body.

Hebrews 13:17 told the first century Christians to be obedient to those who were taking the lead among them. Hebrews tells us that those ones 'will render an account for our souls'. Who would that have been in the 1st century? Would it not be those gifts in men, the Apostles, who were clealy acting as a governing element among the congregations of Christianity? Would it also not be true that these "gifts in men" would strive to be of the 'same mind and the same line of thought with no divisions’ according 1 Cor. 1:10 and context?

There is no question Christians should be obedient to those taking the congregational lead insofar as each one of these Christians is able to put them and their teachings to the test. According to the book of Revelation, the risen Christ reported the following:

Revelation 2:2
‘I know your deeds, and your labor and endurance, and that you cannot bear bad men, and that you put those to the test who say they are apostles, but they are not, and you found them liars.


Teachers, elders, and others with teaching responsibilities should be “put to the test.” A suitable example of one who practiced this were the Boreans.

Paul said that there were those who gave ORDERS in connection with 'how to walk and be pleasing to God';

1 Thessalonians 4:1,2-
Finally, brothers, we request YOU and exhort YOU by the Lord Jesus, just as YOU received [the instruction] from us on how YOU ought to walk and please God, just as YOU are in fact walking, that YOU would keep on doing it more fully.2For YOU know the orders we gave YOU through the Lord Jesus.
The first century Christians were said to adhere to the 'teachings of the APOSTLES'. (Acts 2:42)

Acts 2:42
And they continued devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to sharing [with one another], to taking of meals and to prayers.
Was this different then the teachings of the SCRIPTURES? No, because the Apostles adhered TO the scriptures. It is abundantly clear that the Apostles had a special authority in the 1st century congregation. In reality, the idea of a governing element, made up of men, is everywhere apparent in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Consider the following points and questions:
Romans 16:17
17 Now I exhort YOU, brothers, to keep your eye on those who cause divisions and occasions for stumbling contrary to the teaching that YOU have learned, and avoid them.
Divisions in 'what? What teachings are they in reference to? Would it not be the teachings of the Apostles? (Acts 2:42)
2 Thessalonians 3:6
6 Now we are giving YOU orders, brothers, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to withdraw from every brother walking disorderly and not according to the tradition YOU received from us.
Who is the WE giving the orders if there is no such thing as a Christian governing element?
What is it they received from the US that they needed to adhere to?
Titus 3:10-11
10 As for a man that promotes a sect, reject him after a first and a second admonition; 11 knowing that such a man has been turned out of the way and is sinning, he being self-condemned.
How would you know if someone was promoting a sect if there was no governing element in regard to doctrine?
Who determined what the 'promotion of a sect' entailed?
Titus 2:15
15 Keep on speaking these things and exhorting and reproving with full authority to command. Let no man ever despise you.
Who had “full authority to command” and what did that mean for those under their authority?
Notice 1 Thessalonians 4:1,2-
Finally, brothers, we request YOU and exhort YOU by the Lord Jesus, just as YOU received [the instruction] from us on how YOU ought to walk and please God, just as YOU are in fact walking, that YOU would keep on doing it more fully.2For YOU know the orders we gave YOU through the Lord Jesus.
Throughout his letters to the different congregations we here Paul speaking of the 'orders' or 'instructions' that the congregations had been given by the WE. Who was the WE?
Did you notice Paul didn't say to them "God instructed you", but he said "WE" instructed you? Why did he not say 'God instructed them'?
Why does it say that THEY INSTRUCTED them on HOW TO WALK AND BE PLEASING TO GOD?
It should be readily apparent that the Apostles were speaking with authority to the congregations scattered about.
Titus 1:5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might correct the things that were defective and might make appointments of older men in city after city, as I gave you orders.
Correction. Appointment. Again, clealry indicative of an element of authority.
And again, Hebrews 13:17 "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you."
If there was no governing element within the 1st century congregation, who were the leaders that they were to submit to and obey?
How were these ones responsible for the souls of the congregation to the extent that they would have to make an accounting for them?


Since you string several texts and arguments together, I’ll address them as a unit. It is true that Christians were to adhere to the teachings of the Apostles, this is not in dispute. The question is if these Apostles worked together as a unified centralized body as the head of the congregations. Nothing in these texts suggests this, nor have you provided a positive argument demonstrating this. But a further reason one needed to adhere to the teachings of the Apostles is because they carried with them the oral teachings of Jesus. Since doctrines had not yet been penned, the message the Apostles distributed carried even that much more significance.

In order to understand who the referents are to the personal pronouns used in 1 and 2 Thessalonians (namely “we”/”our”), one only needs to look at the beginning of the letters. For example, the “we” mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 4 are “Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy.” (1 Thess 1:1)

It is impossible that Paul, Silvanus or Timothy were part of a GB. For one, the Society states Paul was not in the GB. Secondly, Paul went to visit and discuss issues with the supposed GB in Acts 15. So obviously he wasn't a member.

What 1 Thessalonians shows is that the Apostles and other teachers acted autonomously. They wrote letters and taught converts Christian truths apart from a centralized body. This is the opposite of what Jehovah’s Witnesses do today.

Moreover, and quite devastating to your position, is that God worked through individuals not centralized bodies in the first century. For example, to Peter it was revealed that Gentiles were allowed in the Church. Did he then consult with a GB about this to seek its approval? No. Similarly, the Apostle Paul was to be an evangelizer for the Gentiles. Did he consult with a supposed GB whose headquarters was in Jerusalem? No. According to Galatians 1-2, he didn’t go up to Jerusalem for some 14 years. So God worked through individuals and through congregations, not a centralized governing authority.

2 Thessalonians 3:13-15
13 For YOUR part, brothers, do not give up in doing right. 14 But if anyone is not obedient to our word through this letter, keep this one marked, stop associating with him, that he may become ashamed. 15 And yet do not be considering him as an enemy, but continue admonising him as a brother.
Where did this letter come from that they had to be obedient to?
Why was it spoken of as OUR WORD, and not God's word? Who was the OUR?
Where was this obvious authority coming from?


There was in fact a governing element but this letter was not coming from a centralized governing body or men appointed by such a body or committee. Rather, it came from individuals who took the lead in the work through their ministry and example, and the stewardship laid upon them by God and Christ directly. One needs to only look at any of Paul’s writings. He explicitly states he was appointed by Christ not a centralized body. (Gal 1:1-2, for example) And while Paul commended them to hold to the teaching they provided, it was not without qualification, for if Paul himself came to them with something different he expected them to reject it completely (Gal. 1:8). So even the "governing element" was not unchecked, but was to be accepted or rejected based upon the contents of the message in relation to the foundational truths of Christianity. Is such testing allowed by the modern day GB of Jehovah’s Witnesses?

*** w06 2/15 p. 30 par. 21 Walking in the Path of Increasing Light ***
Accepting a change when it comes and adapting to it can be difficult,” admits one longtime elder. What has helped him accept the many refinements he has witnessed in the 48 years that he has been a Kingdom proclaimer? He answers: “Having the right attitude is the key. Refusing to accept a refinement is to be left behind as the organization moves ahead. If I find myself in a situation where changes seem hard to accept, I reflect on Peter’s words to Jesus: ‘Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life.’ Then I ask myself, ‘Where shall I go away to—out there into the darkness of the world?’ This helps me to hold firmly to God’s organization.”—John 6:68.


According to this citation, one elder who had difficulty accepting a change accepted it on the basis that he had nowhere else to go. He developed the “right attitude” to accept new refinements. But where is the discussion about putting these refinements to the test? Why didn’t this elder apply Jesus’ counsel as reported in Revelation 2:2?

In many ways, the authority of the modern day GB far exceeds that which is found in the NT. When an Apostle submitted a teaching, it could be challenged and openly discussed in the congregation. (cf Revelation 2:2; Acts 15; Galatians 1-2)

As well, Acts 16:4 tells us that Paul and others in a 'town to town' fashion, delivered the DECREES reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to OBEY."
Why were they called DECREES?
Why were the other congregations expected to OBEY those DECREES? Why did they have to obey the decisions reached by the Apostles and older men?
Is it not clear that the Apostles and older men in Jerusalem represented an authority in the 1st century chuch?


The decrees in Acts 16:4 are given for very specific reasons. Since the Judaizers had gone off to several congregations to spread their false teachings (Acts 15:23), it was necessary for others to know this wasn’t the accepted teachings of the Apostles. Now, of course the letter written by the Apostles had special authority but it was not because they belonged to a centralized governing body but was because they were considered “outstanding men” and “seemed to be something.” (Gal 2:6)

Conclusion

Rotherham’s opening statement was in many ways addressing a position that I never denied. No rational person would ever deny a “governing element” existed in the first century, especially given the existence of the Apostles. The debate topic concerns the (non)existence of a Governing Body. What is meant by “Governing Body” ought to be clear. Since this is a specific theological term unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses, then it ought to be obvious what Rotherhan’s responsibility is in this debate—namely, the burden to prove that a GB (as Jehovah’s Witnesses understand the phrase) existed in the first century. Rather than handle this responsibility, it would appear Rotherham has sidestepped it and changed the topic from “Governing BODY” to “Governing ELEMENT.”
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Re: Was there a governing body in the first century?

Postby Ivanmonroy » Wed Dec 05, 2012 2:21 pm

Question 1 :

In Acts 15 the letter sent by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem says that those with the false teaching "went out from among US." Does this mean these false teachers were members of the GB or simply the Jerusalem congregation, and if the latter, wouldn't that imply the letter came from them as representatives of that particular congregation rather than the earth-wide church?

[EDITORIAL NOTE: There was a typo in my question which changed the meaning or intent of the question.]
Last edited by Ivanmonroy on Thu Dec 06, 2012 5:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Rotherham » Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:13 am

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Answer to Question 1-Rotherham

Postby Rotherham » Fri Dec 07, 2012 10:42 am

Ivanmonroy wrote:Question 1 :

In Acts 15 the letter sent by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem says that those with the false teaching "went out from among US." Does this mean these false teachers were members of the GB or simply the Jerusalem congregation, and if the latter, wouldn't that imply the letter came from them as representatives of that particular congregation rather than the earth-wide church?


I am not sure I understand the intent of the question based upon your admissions in your rebuttal to my opening statement. You have stated that when it came to teachings that you agree that the 1st century Christians adhered to the teachings of the Apostles. This is a clear admission that when it came to TEACHINGS, there was indeed a centralized authority, the Apostles

Since Acts 15 is concerned directly with a "teaching", it would stand to reason that all the churches earth-wide would be expected to abide by their decrees. I assume that when you stated that you agreed that 1st century Christians adhered to the teachings of the Apostles that you meant all the churches, not just some of them. Since it appears that you already agree, that as far as "teachings" were concerned, there was a indeed a centralized body of control, that being the Apostles, I'm uncertain as to why the answer to this question would be relevant to your argument.

The letter that mentioned the US as being responsible for the start of this issue in Antioch was certainly in reference to the Jeruslaem congregation, BUT the issue raised by the source had become widespread, either through the efforts of these former Pharisees working outside of their congregation, or through the spreading of this by those affected by their teaching in the other congregations. Regardless, the issue had become far greater than something that needed settled between two congregations. It clealry involved an "Apostolic teaching" which would naturally involve the earth-wide church. Elsewhere in the Christian Scriptures we see this issue raised again and again. Galatians is a prime example. I think we are both aware that this was not just a localized issue.

The very fact that these letters were regarded as DECREES (Greek word DOGMA) shows that what had transpired primarily between Antioch and Jerusalem, set the stage for an earth-wide issue and as Paul and his companions would travel through the CITIES, they would deliver these decrees for observance. Again, given the fact that you agree that the earth-wide church adhered to the teachings of the Aposltes, unless you think the Apostles taught conflicting an different doctrines, (which I am sure you don't) I don't understand why anyone would find a problem with the JW view that a centralized governing body, at the very least in regard to teachings, is being portrayed in Acts 15 and 16.

Another reason why this would not be a letter representing just the Jerusalem congregation and not an earth-wide centralized authority, is because it would demonstrate a contradiction to your own view that congregations were completely autonomous. What would give Jerusalem, as a completely different and autonomous congregation, the right to dictate what the Antioch congregation should believe? The very fact that they sent the letters telling ANTIOCH and EVERY OTHER CITY congregation what to believe, is proof enough that even though the letter was initially sent to Antioch, along with representatives from the older men of Jerusalem, it was clearly an issue with earth wide ramifications so that ALL the city congregations needed to adhere to the teachings of the Apostles in this matter. Acts 15 and 16 is a classic example of a centralized "teaching" governing body/element.
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Re: Was there a governing body in the first century?

Postby Ivanmonroy » Sat Dec 08, 2012 7:43 pm

REBUTTAL TO ROTHERHAM'S ANSWER TO QUESTION 1

I am not sure I understand the intent of the question based upon your admissions in your rebuttal to my opening statement. You have stated that when it came to teachings that you agree that the 1st century Christians adhered to the teachings of the Apostles. This is a clear admission that when it came to TEACHINGS, there was indeed a centralized authority, the Apostles


It doesn’t follow that because the teachings of the Apostles were authoritative that they therefore formed a centralized governing body. Rather, their authority was displayed individually. Luke, for instance, was not an Apostle yet his writings are authoritative. So Christian teaching and authority was not restricted to the Apostles or to a supposed centralized body, unless you are willing to argue Luke was a GB member.

What I gather from your response is that you imagine the Apostles and elders sat in a room formulating doctrines and then published them in letters to be sent out to the congregations. These congregations, then, looked to the Apostles as their authority and what they taught was accepted truth.

Yet, the evidence paints a different picture. Even the letters in the NT are written by individuals not bodies or committees—not to mention nonApostles (Luke, James the brother of Jesus).

Since Acts 15 is concerned directly with a "teaching", it would stand to reason that all the churches earth-wide would be expected to abide by their decrees. I assume that when you stated that you agreed that 1st century Christians adhered to the teachings of the Apostles that you meant all the churches, not just some of them. Since it appears that you already agree, that as far as "teachings" were concerned, there was a indeed a centralized body of control, that being the Apostles, I'm uncertain as to why the answer to this question would be relevant to your argument.


I fail to see how you have proven the Apostles were a “centralized body of control.” Yes, their teachings were authoritative for a number of reasons, not least because a qualification for being an apostle was to have seen the risen Lord. But nowhere in Acts or anywhere else is it stated the Apostles composed a centralized body of control. The existence of Luke’s authoritative teaching, and the authoritative teaching of James, for instance, shows that this GB, if one allows for its existence, did not have a monopoly on Christian teaching. Indeed, even if one allows for the existence of a GB, this still doesn’t prove a single channel of authority since other mediums existed.

If other authoritative mediums existed namely Luke, James, etc. how can you claim there existed a centralized authority? How can it be centralized when other authoritative means exist?

But as Acts 15 shows, the decision was arrived after much dialog and open discussion. The “entire multitude” (Acts 15:12) was present and the “whole congregation” (Acts 15:22) chose certain men to carry out and deliver the contents of the letter. From the account in Acts 15 I fail to see how you can arrive at the conclusion that there existed a “centralized body of control.” The decision was arrived at through congregational discussion and participation.

Another reason why this would not be a letter representing just the Jerusalem congregation and not an earth-wide centralized authority, is because it would demonstrate a contradiction to your own view that congregations were completely autonomous. What would give Jerusalem, as a completely different and autonomous congregation, the right to dictate what the Antioch congregation should believe? The very fact that they sent the letters telling ANTIOCH and EVERY OTHER CITY congregation what to believe, is proof enough that even though the letter was initially sent to Antioch, along with representatives from the older men of Jerusalem, it was clearly an issue with earth wide ramifications so that ALL the city congregations needed to adhere to the teachings of the Apostles in this matter. Acts 15 and 16 is a classic example of a centralized "teaching" governing body/element.


While congregations were autonomous I never suggested they were “completely” autonomous. The teachings of the Apostles did not come as decrees from a centralized body. For example, the teaching that Gentiles would be included into God’s flock was revealed to Simon Peter through a vision. He then communicated this teaching to the congregation in Jerusalem. This plainly shows God did not work through a centralized body of control but through individuals and individual congregations.

Jeruslaem congregation, BUT the issue raised by the source had become widespread, either through the efforts of these former Pharisees working outside of their congregation, or through the spreading of this by those affected by their teaching in the other congregations. Regardless, the issue had become far greater than something that needed settled between two congregations. It clealry involved an "Apostolic teaching" which would naturally involve the earth-wide church. Elsewhere in the Christian Scriptures we see this issue raised again and again. Galatians is a prime example. I think we are both aware that this was not just a localized issue.

The very fact that these letters were regarded as DECREES (Greek word DOGMA) shows that what had transpired primarily between Antioch and Jerusalem, set the stage for an earth-wide issue and as Paul and his companions would travel through the CITIES, they would deliver these decrees for observance. Again, given the fact that you agree that the earth-wide church adhered to the teachings of the Aposltes, unless you think the Apostles taught conflicting an different doctrines, (which I am sure you don't) I don't understand why anyone would find a problem with the JW view that a centralized governing body, at the very least in regard to teachings, is being portrayed in Acts 15 and 16.


Since the “us” refers to the Jerusalem congregation as per your admission, then the letter came from the elders and Apostles as representatives not of the worldwide church but of the Jerusalem congregation in particular. It was the Jerusalem congregation that was clarifying what had happened: The teachings of the Judaizers is not our own.

Yes, the decree of the Apostles and elders was authoritative for all Christian communities. But not because they formed a body of control. Rather, because Peter had given a knockdown argument against the Judaizers: Gentiles received the holy spirit apart from the Law of Moses, therefore Gentiles and others do not need to keep the Law.

Moreover, let us recall we are not just talking about regular persons claiming authority. We are talking about Apostles. According to Paul a true apostle performed “signs and portents and powerful works.” (2 Cor 2:12) A further qualification was actually having seen the risen Christ. (1 Cor 9:1; 15:7)

So the actual reasons why the apostolic decrees that resulted from the council’s meeting in Acts 15 were authoritative are obvious:

1 Peter delivered an irrefutable argument
2 Apostles were able to perform supernatural works thanks to the holy spirit
3 The Apostles had seen the risen Jesus
4 The Apostles were the source of Jesus’ oral teachings

These and other reasons (such as prophetic revelations) were the source behind their authority. Nothing having to do with being a centralized body of control. In fact, the Apostles never exerted their authority through a body, it was always individually. For example, one need only look at the letters they sent to different churches.
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REBUTTAL TO IVAN'S REBUTTAL PER QUESTION #1

Postby Rotherham » Mon Dec 10, 2012 10:14 am

To claim that the earthwide church adhered to the teachings of the Apostles yet the Apostles did not serve as a central authority for teaching is simply contradictory. One can not adhere to the teachings of a group unless they view that group as a body that has the authority to control what is taught.

The unity of this body of men is stressed time and again when we see that these letters are often spoken of as coming from a GROUP. US and WE are common when it comes to instructions and orders that were given to the many congregations round about. Even if letters were sent by individuals, they were certainly never promoting a teaching that would have been contrary to the Apostolic teachings. So even an individualized letter would not demonstrate any autonomy in regard to teachings. They either adhered to the teachings of the Apostles or they didn't. If they did, then they regarded the Apostles as a body of men with authority over teaching. That amounts to, at the very least, a governing body when it comes to teaching. To claim that it doesn't is to contradict the very basic Biblical statement that they ADHERED to the teachings of the Aposltes. It also stretches the imagination as to how the earth wide church understood all that the Apostles taught without a significant means of correspondence with them. Circumcision was surely not the only aberrant teaching that arose and it can eassily be imagined that each of those issues could bring about the desire and sometimes the necessity to see how the Apostles felt about those teachings. To say that those other issues would not have required some kind of contact with the Apostles for clarification or correction would be to simply take a stand that would be motivated by bias. There's simply no reason to believe that and every reason to belief the opposite.

The Apostles adhered to the Bible for their teachings, so therefore, any Bible writer, Apostle or not, would provide the basis for Apostolic teaching. Whether Luke, or any one else responsibe for the recording of God's inspired words, was an Apostle or not does not demonstrate an autonomy from that teaching body, it simply deomonstrated that God inspired others besides the Apostles to pen the Bible. Luke's words were authoritative because they were God's words, not because they were just his. The Aposltes, no doubt possessing the siritual gift of "discernment of inspiration", would know whether Luke was speaking from God or for himself. Certainly Luke did not TEACH anything via his writings that would have been contrary to Apostolic teaching, and the things he did teach would naturally then come to form part of the basis of Apostolic teaching, NOT because it came form HIM, but because it came from God.

Of course when it comes to Luke, at the very least, one could see him as they see Paul, as a representative of that larger group in Jerusalem that possessed authority over the congregations for teaching, because Luke often accompanied Paul in his journeys and was mentioned by Paul as his fellow worker.

James was instrinsically connected with the Apostles as he was was present at the Jerusalem council, no doubt considered to be among the older men who convened with the Apostles about the circumcision issue. He was a key figure in settling the dsipute. To say that he could not have been a member of that centralized body of men with authority is certainly unwarranted since he was one of the prominent figures in this decision. Even Gal. 1:18,19 calls James an Apostle. So it appears that James came to be recognized as an Apostle by the time the Jerusalem council met.

Again I have to stress the logical disconnect between agreeing that the first century church adhered to the teachings of the Apostles , yet the Apostles were not a governing body when it comes to teachings. Huh? Again, Paul, when delivering orders and instructions and decrees to the different congregations, he often says WE or US in connection with those things delivered. This shows that he was referring to an authority beyond just his own. Bible writers were authorized by God himself which the Apostles would naturally receive with open arms as words from God, not just from the individual who penned them. These words would then form part of the basis for their Apostolic teachings which the rest of the congregations would adhere to. This adherence had to be the result of some sort of communication with the Apostles, it surely did not take place by some sort of osmosis.

I will repeat here what I posted in my rebutall to Ivan's Opening statement:

As far as "multitude" goes, it does not in every context mean a great number of people, but as is revealed by Thayer's lexicon, it can simply mean "the whole number, the whole multitude, the assemblage". At Acts 28:6 it is used in reference to a mere bundle of sticks gathered by Paul. So, yes, there was an assemblage of men; Apostles, older men, Paul, Barnabas and some former Pharisees, and they all became silent when Paul and Barnabas began to speak.

The most that we can take from what is stated about the entire congregation is that they were in agreement with the choice of who should be sent with the letter to Antioch. It demonstrates nothing as to their presence or influence upon the meeting of the Apostles and older men.

We have to remember that this council at Jeruasalem was in regard to a TEACHING, and since it is already agreed that the earth wide church looked to the Apostles for guidance when it came to teachings, it is contradictory and self defeating to argue against this particualr context as if it was not demonstrating a body of authority when it comes to teachings. Semantically a body of authority is the same thing as saying a governing body.

Peter WAS an Apostle and he was inspired by God to write his letter. His letters were not something autonomous from the Apostles because it came from GOD, and the Apostles taught what GOD taught. These kinds of examples in an attempt to demonstrate autonomy are completely wrong headed and backwards.

Ivan stated:

So the actual reasons why the apostolic decrees that resulted from the council’s meeting in Acts 15 were authoritative are obvious:

1 Peter delivered an irrefutable argument
2 Apostles were able to perform supernatural works thanks to the holy spirit
3 The Apostles had seen the risen Jesus
4 The Apostles were the source of Jesus’ oral teachings


Number 1-Peter WAS an Apostle, and inspired by God. That would hardly demonstrate some autonomous authority in regard to teaching. It basically came from God, whose teachings the Apostles followed and taught.

Number 2-Exactly, and working under the supervision and guidance of the holy spirit would certainly not demonstrate an autonomy. Unity is the goal of God's holy spirit.

NUmber 3-Yes, they, because of their unique experience and privilege acted as those INITIAL "gifts" to keep the worldwide congregation unified according to Ephesians 4:11-17. Of course after they would leave the scene, others would be endowed with the same responsibility into the future until complete understanding would arrive.

Number 4- The Apostles were clearly not the SOURCE of Jesus oral teaching. Those teachings came from God through Christ and naturally formed a large basis for the things that the Apostles taught and expected the worldwide church to adhere to. Rather the oral teachings of Christ were the SOURCE for Apostolic teaching, not the other way around. Those oral teachings of Christ, plus the things revealed through Divine inspiration as the words of God, were the source for the Apostles' teachings and the entire worldwide church was expected to abide by those things. Such an arrangement would necessarily require a good deal of communication with that authoritative body, that governing body, in order to be protected against every wind of teaching and the trickery of men and the wolves that would enter in and try to draw disciples after themselves.

This concludes the exchange in regard to Ivan's question #1. I will now submit my question #1 to Ivan immediately below this post.
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QUESTION #1 FOR IVAN

Postby Rotherham » Tue Dec 11, 2012 9:17 am

It is readily apparent that Paul gave commands, orders, instructions, etc to many different individuals and congregations. (References available if necessary) If congregations were autonomous, and Paul was evidently a member of the congregation in Antioch, where did he and others (US, WE) get the authority to tell different congregations and individuals not in his congregation, what to do?
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ANSWER TO ROTHERHAM'S QUESTION #1

Postby Ivanmonroy » Tue Dec 11, 2012 2:27 pm

It is readily apparent that Paul gave commands, orders, instructions, etc to many different individuals and congregations. (References available if necessary) If congregations were autonomous, and Paul was evidently a member of the congregation in Antioch, where did he and others (US, WE) get the authority to tell different congregations and individuals not in his congregation, what to do?


Paul’s authority to teach and give instructions came from Jesus Christ himself, not through human agency. (Gal 1:1) This alone explains Paul’s authority towards the congregations, but since you cited in your responses to me 1 and 2 Thessalonians in particular, I will be more specific.

According to Acts 17:1-4, Paul travelled to Thessalonica and began preaching and teaching in the synagogue. As the account relates, Paul had some success converting some Jews and Greeks over to faith in the risen Christ. It stands to reason these newly converted persons would then form a group or congregation after having believed. As such, Paul was the founder of this congregation and so his authority and ability to give instruction would have been welcomed.

It is also noteworthy to mention members of the first century congregation had been given gifts, which included prophetic abilities, revelations and so on. Naturally these ones would have had a special authority. Since these messages/revelations had come from God and/or Jesus, they would have been messages relevant to all congregations not just local ones.

A word needs to be said about what I mean about autonomy. First and foremost, I do not believe first century congregations were independent. That is to say, that each congregation had their own beliefs that were unique and distinct from other congregations. I do not believe congregations had contradictory beliefs or that they were competing for a certain orthodoxy. This is not what I mean by autonomy. What I do mean is that they were self-governing.

By self-governing I mean the following: elders and other officials were appointed locally (Titus 1:5), a teaching could be challenged insofar as it seemed at odds with previous teachings (Gal 1:8), they were able to conduct charitable causes, deploy missionaries to different territories and congregations (Acts 13:1-3), and other such congregational activities apart from a centralized governing body directing their affairs.

In fact, Paul was one such person. He went on missionary journeys and taught things about Christ without a governing body directing his travels or teachings. He received revelations from God and was empowered by the holy spirit. If the Jerusalem council was a GB through which God worked, why didn’t Paul consult with them or get his teaching from them? Indeed why did God work through Paul and not this supposed GB? The rhetorical intent of these questions is to highlight the obvious truth that Paul’s own authority answers the debate topic: Was there a first century governing body?
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Re: REBUTTAL TO IVAN"S ANSWER TO QUESTION #1

Postby Rotherham » Wed Dec 12, 2012 9:10 am

Paul’s authority to teach and give instructions came from Jesus Christ himself, not through human agency. (Gal 1:1) This alone explains Paul’s authority towards the congregations, but since you cited in your responses to me 1 and 2 Thessalonians in particular, I will be more specific.


Paul's conversion came far before he ever exercised authority toward any congregation and it wasn't until the Apostles laid their hands upon him and extended the "right hand of sharing" as recorded in Galatians that he exercised any authority whatsoever, in fact, those Apostolic actions in his behalf happened before he ever received inspiration to pen any letter in the Bible. If Paul possessed full authority why did he not simply settle the issue of circumcision himself? Why even take it before the older men in Jerusalem? The answers to these questions demonsrate that Paul's authority did not come at the time of conversion and appointment by Jesus as his Aposlte, but it came from the actions of the Apostles, laying their hands upon him and extending to him the right hand of sharing as recorded in Galations 2. It would be completely unsupported to promote the idea that he simply took off on the basis of his own authority and began to tell individuals and congregations what to do by way of orders, commands and instructions.

According to Acts 17:1-4, Paul travelled to Thessalonica and began preaching and teaching in the synagogue. As the account relates, Paul had some success converting some Jews and Greeks over to faith in the risen Christ. It stands to reason these newly converted persons would then form a group or congregation after having believed. As such, Paul was the founder of this congregation and so his authority and ability to give instruction would have been welcomed.


Whether he helped establish the congregation or not is irrelevant. Many no doubt helped but that would not mean that they possessed any special authority over the congregation. The real reason that he would have authority is the fact that the Apostles had laid their hands upon him and had extended to him the right hand of sharing long before he ever demonstrated this authority by way of letter or visitation to these congregations and individuals.

It is also noteworthy to mention members of the first century congregation had been given gifts, which included prophetic abilities, revelations and so on. Naturally these ones would have had a special authority. Since these messages/revelations had come from God and/or Jesus, they would have been messages relevant to all congregations not just local ones.


This actually feeds to the point I am making. The congregations were a united front and being collectively directed by God through the Apostles by means of a central authority.

A word needs to be said about what I mean about autonomy. First and foremost, I do not believe first century congregations were independent. That is to say, that each congregation had their own beliefs that were unique and distinct from other congregations. I do not believe congregations had contradictory beliefs or that they were competing for a certain orthodoxy. This is not what I mean by autonomy. What I do mean is that they were self-governing.

By self-governing I mean the following: elders and other officials were appointed locally (Titus 1:5), a teaching could be challenged insofar as it seemed at odds with previous teachings (Gal 1:8), they were able to conduct charitable causes, deploy missionaries to different territories and congregations (Acts 13:1-3), and other such congregational activities apart from a centralized governing body directing their affairs.


Elders were not appointed autonomously by each congregation. Read Titus again and you will see that TITUS was to go about CITY to CITY and appoint older men under the directions given by Paul, who now had the right hand of sharing via the Apostolic governing body. The instructions Paul mentioning are recorded for us right in the Bible, some of them right in the letter to Titus and therefore would be part of the Apostolic teaching, which would then be universal. There is no autonomy being demonstrated here at all by a local congregation appointing men without the influence of a governing body. Paul, Barnabas, Titus, and evidently Timothy are recorded as taking part in appointing persons as “older men” in the congregations. (Ac 14:21-23; 1Ti 5:22; Tit 1:5) There is no record of such appointments by the congregations independently. In relating Paul and Barnabas’ revisiting of Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, Acts 14:23 states that “they appointed older men for them in each congregation”

Today, as far as charitable works go, or sending evangelizers to different territories and congregations, although more effectively done through the direction of the governing body, it can also be done autonomously. Surely the governing body would know of the special needs in the different territories and where the efforts of the brothers and sisters would be best directed.

As far as questioning teachings, this is an area highly misunderstood by our opposers. There is nothing wrong with questioning teachings as long as the questions or ideas are not in clear contradiction to the scriptures. Questions and even doubts can be persoanlly held without consequence to their status as a Christian as long as these are not promoted to spread doubts among others. Elders can be consulted as well as traveling overseers and letters can be written to the branch and governing body in order to pursue answers or clarifications to what is being asked. The ONLY problem that arises is when one decides to promote to others in the congregation, different doctrines or teachings than what has already been agreed upon by the body. That is the Biblical paradigm as well. For instance:

Titus 3:10 As for a man that promotes a sect, reject him after a first and a second admonition;11knowing that such a man has been turned out of the way and is sinning, he being self‐condemned.

Gal. 5:19-21 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, and they are fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, 20 idolatry, practice of spiritism, enmities, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, 21 envies, drunken bouts, revelries, and things like these. As to these things I am forewarning YOU, the same way as I did forewarn YOU, that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.

1 Cor. 1:10 10 Now I exhort YOU, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that YOU should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among YOU, but that YOU may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.

Rom. 16:17 17 Now I exhort YOU, brothers, to keep your eye on those who cause divisions and occasions for stumbling contrary to the teaching that YOU have learned, and avoid them.


In fact, Paul was one such person. He went on missionary journeys and taught things about Christ without a governing body directing his travels or teachings. He received revelations from God and was empowered by the holy spirit. If the Jerusalem council was a GB through which God worked, why didn’t Paul consult with them or get his teaching from them? Indeed why did God work through Paul and not this supposed GB? The rhetorical intent of these questions is to highlight the obvious truth that Paul’s own authority answers the debate topic: Was there a first century governing body?


To say that Paul taught autonomously is truly myopic when one sees that many times when he gave orders or mentioned letters or instructions or gave commands, he said it was through WE or US. He was clearly working WITH someone and Galatians is clear in presenting that he had been extended the right hand of sharing with the then existing governing body, the Apostles. Your question about the Jerusalem council is interesting because it demonstatres the very point being made. Think about it. If Paul had as much authority to decide matters as did the Apostles, why even take the matter to THEM and have THEM meet to decide the issue? He had full authority to do so himself if what you try to say is true. The very fact that he was wanting to take it to the Apostles shows he recognized their authority when it came to teachings. So he DID consult with them. That should be beyond obvious.

If you agree that there was a central element/body of authority when it came to teaching on the first century, then a good deal of the debate is settled because we agree. Plus, it's more than obvious that "elders" were appointed by representatives of the GB, given instructions as to how to do it and there is no record at all of each congregation acting autonomously in this regard, but rather to the contrary. The other examples of charities, sending evangelizers to other congregation and territories to help them, are moot because we do not always have to go through the governing body for these things to take place. There are in fact many autonomous things that our congregations can do without direction from the governing body. I believe your understanding of how JWs operate is sadly lacking and you have been fed by biased individuals who evidently would like you to think that we are mind-numbed robots, the BORG, so to speak. I've often heard that humorous evaluation of us but it is completely myopic. Oddly enough, when it is used to describe our unity, it's actually somewhat complementary. But again, let's keep in mind this discussion is not about what JWs are doing today, but about whether or not there was a first century governing body. All the Biblical evidence considered points to YES.
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REBUTTAL TO ROTHERHAM'S ANSWER PER QUESTION #1

Postby Ivanmonroy » Wed Dec 12, 2012 5:19 pm

Paul's conversion came far before he ever exercised authority toward any congregation and it wasn't until the Apostles laid their hands upon him and extended the "right hand of sharing" as recorded in Galatians that he exercised any authority whatsoever, in fact, those Apostolic actions in his behalf happened before he ever received inspiration to pen any letter in the Bible.


According to Acts 14:23 Paul appointed elders in different congregations in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch long before Galatians 2, which proves your entire argument misguided. He certainly had authority before his meeting with the Apostles in Acts 15.

If Paul possessed full authority why did he not simply settle the issue of circumcision himself? Why even take it before the older men in Jerusalem? The answers to these questions demonsrate that Paul's authority did not come at the time of conversion and appointment by Jesus as his Aposlte, but it came from the actions of the Apostles, laying their hands upon him and extending to him the right hand of sharing as recorded in Galations 2. It would be completely unsupported to promote the idea that he simply took off on the basis of his own authority and began to tell individuals and congregations what to do by way of orders, commands and instructions.


No one is suggesting Paul went off on “his own authority” but on an authority bestowed upon him by the Lord Jesus Christ himself. (Gal 1:1) Since Paul had been preaching, teaching, and working miraculous deeds prior to meeting the Apostles in Acts 15 (Gal 2), then it is obvious he had authority prior to that meeting. Paul is explicit as he can be in Galatians 1:11-12 that his message was not taught to him by men and that his authority did not come from men but “through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”

That the Apostles extended their “right hand of sharing” means nothing more that they agreed with Paul’s teaching and welcomed his fellowship. It has nothing to do with passing on ‘supernatural authority,’ as if some quasi-ritual.

Whether he helped establish the congregation or not is irrelevant. Many no doubt helped but that would not mean that they possessed any special authority over the congregation. The real reason that he would have authority is the fact that the Apostles had laid their hands upon him and had extended to him the right hand of sharing long before he ever demonstrated this authority by way of letter or visitation to these congregations and individuals.


That Paul established the congregation at Thessalonica is relevant because this means he would have had some special place of authority to these Christians. If you help build a community you obviously earn a special status within it.

Elders were not appointed autonomously by each congregation. Read Titus again and you will see that TITUS was to go about CITY to CITY and appoint older men under the directions given by Paul, who now had the right hand of sharing via the Apostolic governing body... There is no autonomy being demonstrated here at all by a local congregation appointing men without the influence of a governing body.
Titus did in fact have Paul’s blessing when appointing elders in different cities, but this was Paul’s blessing, not some “governing body’s.” (Note the first person personal pronoun “I”) Paul had appointed elders in Acts 14:23 prior to meeting the Apostles in Jerusalem (Gal 2; Acts 15), which shows Paul’s authority to appoint elders was not “via the Apostolic governing body.”
Paul, Barnabas, Titus, and evidently Timothy are recorded as taking part in appointing persons as “older men” in the congregations. (Ac 14:21-23; 1Ti 5:22; Tit 1:5) There is no record of such appointments by the congregations independently. In relating Paul and Barnabas’ revisiting of Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, Acts 14:23 states that “they appointed older men for them in each congregation”


You cite Acts 14:23 twice but you evidently don’t see how this undermines your entire rebuttal. Paul had a hand in appointing elders in different cities prior to (=before) going up to Jerusalem to meet with the Apostles. In other words Paul did not need this supposed Apostolic governing body to exercise his authority.

Today, as far as charitable works go, or sending evangelizers to different territories and congregations, although more effectively done through the direction of the governing body, it can also be done autonomously. Surely the governing body would know of the special needs in the different territories and where the efforts of the brothers and sisters would be best directed.
Since individuals and congregations are part of the community no one would know better than these ones to coordinate actions and so forth, especially where it concerns charitable causes. (Acts 9:36ff)
As far as questioning teachings, this is an area highly misunderstood by our opposers. There is nothing wrong with questioning teachings as long as the questions or ideas are not in clear contradiction to the scriptures. Questions and even doubts can be persoanlly held without consequence to their status as a Christian as long as these are not promoted to spread doubts among others. Elders can be consulted as well as traveling overseers and letters can be written to the branch and governing body in order to pursue answers or clarifications to what is being asked. The ONLY problem that arises is when one decides to promote to others in the congregation, different doctrines or teachings than what has already been agreed upon by the body. That is the Biblical paradigm as well.


What this reply shows is that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not free to “put them to the test” (Revelation 2:2) in regards to questioning teachings. Or to put it another way, the impression given by your reply is that Witnesses can only question certain ideas and beliefs mentally with no available dialogue or forum to express an opinion. The “Biblical paradigm” is quite different. Acts 15 shows that important subject matters were discussed congregationally and Paul in Galatians 1:8 puts a check on Apostolic authority. No one was above the law, so to speak.

To say that Paul taught autonomously is truly myopic when one sees that many times when he gave orders or mentioned letters or instructions or gave commands, he said it was through WE or US. He was clearly working WITH someone and Galatians is clear in presenting that he had been extended the right hand of sharing with the then existing governing body, the Apostles.


The “us” or “we” are always clearly defined within the context of a letter. In the Thessalonian letters, for example, one needs to only look at the first verse. There’s zero basis for suggesting the “we” or “us” are someone other than the persons who wrote the letter themselves.

If Paul had as much authority to decide matters as did the Apostles, why even take the matter to THEM and have THEM meet to decide the issue? He had full authority to do so himself if what you try to say is true. The very fact that he was wanting to take it to the Apostles shows he recognized their authority when it came to teachings. So he DID consult with them. That should be beyond obvious.


The way you have phrased these questions misrepresents what actually happened in Acts 15. This wasn’t a secret meeting limited to the Apostles and Paul but was an open congregational matter. Moreover, the Apostles didn’t have totalitarian authority. Their teachings/authority could be checked (Gal 1:8; Rev 2:2) and as Acts 15 shows, the entire congregation agreed with the conclusion. So it was essential for them to discuss this issue as a council but equally so to clear the air in regards to the Jerusalem church’s stance on this, since these false teachers had gone around spreading false messages.

If you agree that there was a central element/body of authority when it came to teaching on the first century, then a good deal of the debate is settled because we agree. Plus, it's more than obvious that "elders" were appointed by representatives of the GB, given instructions as to how to do it and there is no record at all of each congregation acting autonomously in this regard, but rather to the contrary. The other examples of charities, sending evangelizers to other congregation and territories to help them, are moot because we do not always have to go through the governing body for these things to take place. There are in fact many autonomous things that our congregations can do without direction from the governing body. I believe your understanding of how JWs operate is sadly lacking and you have been fed by biased individuals who evidently would like you to think that we are mind-numbed robots, the BORG, so to speak. I've often heard that humorous evaluation of us but it is completely myopic. Oddly enough, when it is used to describe our unity, it's actually somewhat complementary. But again, let's keep in mind this discussion is not about what JWs are doing today, but about whether or not there was a first century governing body. All the Biblical evidence considered points to YES.


We have both agreed there was a governing “element.” This is not in question. What we are discussing is if there was a permanent, life-appointed committee in the first century that acted as a governing body in manipulating the affairs of congregations earthwide. This is sorely lacking in the biblical material. However, such structure does begin to appear in second, third, and fourth century writings of early Christians but this is clearly a post-biblical organization of things.

You claim it is “obvious” that elders were appointed by GB representatives yet Acts 14:23 contradicts this flatly as does Titus 1:5, among other texts.

You are correct this debate is not about what Witnesses are doing presently but it would be disingenuous to pretend this is not the heart of the matter. Jehovah’s Witnesses have very specific views concerning the existence and meaning of a “Governing Body.” So when we debate a GB’s existence it is obvious to all what is meant and the consequences it has for Witnesses and others.

Question #2 to follow.
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QUESTION #2

Postby Ivanmonroy » Wed Dec 12, 2012 5:21 pm

You argued that Paul did not "exercise any authority whatsoever" until he met with the Apostles in Jerusalem. However, before this meeting we see in Acts 14 that Paul was appointing elders. So upon what basis do you make this claim?
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Re:ANSWER TO QUESTION #2-ROTHERHAM

Postby Rotherham » Thu Dec 13, 2012 11:12 am

Ivanmonroy wrote:You argued that Paul did not "exercise any authority whatsoever" until he met with the Apostles in Jerusalem. However, before this meeting we see in Acts 14 that Paul was appointing elders. So upon what basis do you make this claim?


I am pleased that you asked this question because it will afford me to make a slight yet insignificant correction which will also correct some of the misstatements that you have made that relate to this question.

It should be noted that what I said was that Paul exercised no authority until the Apostles had laid their hands upon him and also extended to him and Barnabas the right hand of sharing together. I erroneously made this sound as if the "laying hands on" and the extending the "right hand of sharing" were simultaneous and by the same group. They were not. In fact, it was not the Apostolic governing body that directly laid their hands on Paul, but it was through their representative Barnabas who was evidently associated with the congregation at Jerusalem, whom the Apostles had sent to Antioch, that did so. So Paul's authority came via a representative of the governing body participating in the laying on of hands, which signifies divine commission. This event occurred in the first part of Acts 13 at the request of the holy spirit, and therefore preceded any display of authority within the congregations since we do not see Paul appointing any older men until the end of chapter 14, and of course, Barnabas, as a representative of that governing body was also present.

So once again, Paul did not set out with any authority in the congregations until appointed to do so by men who were representative of the governing body in Jerusalem. When he wrote his letter to the Thessalonians, he possessed authority over them along with Sylvanus (who was Silas from the older men in Jerusalem and therefore also a representative of the governing body) and Timothy (who had been given authority through the laying on of hands of Paul and the older men to make appointments) They all carried that representative authority possessed by the governing body in Jerusalem.
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REBUTTAL TO ROTHERHAM'S ANSWER

Postby Ivanmonroy » Thu Dec 13, 2012 3:51 pm

It should be noted that what I said was that Paul exercised no authority until the Apostles had laid their hands upon him and also extended to him and Barnabas the right hand of sharing together. I erroneously made this sound as if the "laying hands on" and the extending the "right hand of sharing" were simultaneous and by the same group. They were not.


Where does the biblical material imply or even suggest the ‘laying of the hands’ was a necessary prerequisite for Paul to begin exercising his authority? You make the assumption that this ritual was necessary but until evidence is actually produced, this is baseless. There is simply no biblical mandate stating a ‘laying of the hands’ is necessary for a ministry’s approval or for an Apostle to be able to exercise their authority.

In fact, it was not the Apostolic governing body that directly laid their hands on Paul, but it was through their representative Barnabas who was evidently associated with the congregation at Jerusalem, whom the Apostles had sent to Antioch, that did so.


You here make another unproven and unwarranted assumption, namely, that Barnabas was the representative of the supposed governing body. Where is the evidence? This is only an assertion. Moreover you state Barnabas laid his hands upon Paul in this supposed necessary ritual. Yet, Acts 13:1-3 says Saul and Barnabas had hands laid upon them not that Barnabas laid his hands upon Saul/Paul. In fact, according to Acts 13 it was the other “prophets and teachers” in Antioch which laid their hands upon Paul AND Barnabas.

So Paul's authority came via a representative of the governing body participating in the laying on of hands, which signifies divine commission.


Galatians 1:1 NASB: Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead),

Galatians 1:11-12 NASB: For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Paul’s ministry, which included travelling, preaching, and founding congregations, was not authorized by means of ‘human agency’ but through Jesus Christ. Paul flatly says he didn’t need someone to give him authority. Jesus Christ’s authority sufficed.

So once again, Paul did not set out with any authority in the congregations until appointed to do so by men who were representative of the governing body in Jerusalem.


In Acts 9 Ananias lays hands upon Paul for him to recover his sight and to be filled with the holy spirit. Since Paul had the power of the spirit upon his conversion, he already possessed authority necessary to appoint elders, to prophesy, and to teach. (Acts 13:1-3)

Is being commissioned directly by the Lord Jesus Christ, functioning as a Christian teacher, i.e., having the authority to dispense biblical truths, stating that you don’t derive your authority from humans (Gal 1), having the spirit of prophecy, and being the founder of multiple Christian congregations throughout the Mediterranean not enough to exercise ecclesiastical authority?
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Re: REBUTTAL TO ROTHERHAM'S ANSWER

Postby Rotherham » Fri Dec 14, 2012 9:35 am

Where does the biblical material imply or even suggest the ‘laying of the hands’ was a necessary prerequisite for Paul to begin exercising his authority? You make the assumption that this ritual was necessary but until evidence is actually produced, this is baseless. There is simply no biblical mandate stating a ‘laying of the hands’ is necessary for a ministry’s approval or for an Apostle to be able to exercise their authority.


It is implied by the very fact that Paul did not appoint older men until after hands were laid upon him in Antioch when the spirit said to do so. Throughout this you are confusing Paul's right to be a preacher and a teacher with his authority over congregations. Paul clearly had authority to preach and teach from his conversion onward, just like any other Christian would have, but that does not speak to whether he had any authority over the congregations and individuals that he later demonstrated.

Appointments of mature men to positions or offices of responsibility were often made by the laying on of hands by those with the authority to do so.

(Acts 6:5-6) 5 And the thing spoken was pleasing to the whole multitude, and they selected Stephen, a man full of faith and holy spirit, and Philip and Proch′o·rus and Ni·ca′nor and Ti′mon and Par′me·nas and Nic·o·la′us, a proselyte of Antioch; 6 and they placed them before the apostles, and, after having prayed, these laid their hands upon them.

(1 Timothy 4:14) 14 Do not be neglecting the gift in you that was given you through a prediction and when the body of older men laid their hands upon you.

Because of the influence that these appointed men would have and the example they would set, the apostle Paul commanded Timothy: “Never lay your hands hastily upon any man; neither be a sharer in the sins of others.” 1Ti 5:22. This meant not to appoint a man without proper consideration of his qualifications, in case the man would fail to carry out the duties of his office properly, and Timothy would could share the blame for the difficulty that it might cause.

Whether this was necessary on every occasion is not stated but certainly there is precedent to think so.


You here make another unproven and unwarranted assumption, namely, that Barnabas was the representative of the supposed governing body. Where is the evidence? This is only an assertion.


And it would be an assertion by you that he was not. There are good reasons to believe that Barnabas was a representative of the governing body from Jerusalem. Before being sent to Antioch by the Apostles, it appears he was associated with the Jerusalem congregation. It is entirely reasonable to see that Barnabas would have been considered an older man in that congregation, and since the older men in that congregation were included in the governing body along with the Apostles, it is easy to see that Barnabas could have been a representative of that body.

Moreover you state Barnabas laid his hands upon Paul in this supposed necessary ritual. Yet, Acts 13:1-3 says Saul and Barnabas had hands laid upon them not that Barnabas laid his hands upon Saul/Paul. In fact, according to Acts 13 it was the other “prophets and teachers” in Antioch which laid their hands upon Paul AND Barnabas.


There is no reason to think that Barnabas would not have shared in laying his hands on Paul for the assignment given to him by the Lord. But whether he shared in that or not is hardly the point. The point is that Barnabas, who we would see as a representative of the governing body in Jerusalem, approved of the actions upon Paul. The very fact that God wanted those prominent men in Antioch to set them aside for the work that he was going to give them, shows that God wanted those men to join in with Him in authorizing them to do so. It pleased God that not only did He commission them, but those prominent men followed in step.


Galatians 1:1 NASB: Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead),
Galatians 1:11-12 NASB: For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.


These verses speak of the GOSPEL that he preached, it did not speak of any authority that he exercised over the churches.

Paul’s ministry, which included travelling, preaching, and founding congregations, was not authorized by means of ‘human agency’ but through Jesus Christ. Paul flatly says he didn’t need someone to give him authority. Jesus Christ’s authority sufficed.


As mentioned, Paul was directly commissioned by Christ himself when it came to his preaching work. That's the "authority" that he received from Christ directly. We don't see Paul founding any congregations prior to the Jerusalem council where they extended to him the right hand of sharing. Besides, if he did during his first missionary journey, we should remember that he was in accompaniment with Barnabas, who we would see as a representative of the Jerusalem governing body.

The administrative function of the Apostles is demonstrated many times to include more than just the congregation at Jerusalem.

(Acts 8:14-17) 14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Sa·mar′i·a had accepted the word of God, they dispatched Peter and John to them; 15 and these went down and prayed for them to get holy spirit. 16 For it had not yet fallen upon any one of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they went laying their hands upon them, and they began to receive holy spirit.

(Acts 11:19-22) 19 Consequently those who had been scattered by the tribulation that arose over Stephen went through as far as Phoe·ni′cia and Cy′prus and Antioch, but speaking the word to no one except to Jews only. 20 However, out of them there were some men of Cy′prus and Cy·re′ne that came to Antioch and began talking to the Greek-speaking people, declaring the good news of the Lord Jesus. 21 Furthermore, the hand of Jehovah was with them, and a great number that became believers turned to the Lord. 22 The account about them got to the ears of the congregation that was in Jerusalem, and they sent out Bar′na·bas as far as Antioch.

(Acts 16:4-5) 4 Now as they traveled on through the cities they would deliver to those there for observance the decrees that had been decided upon by the apostles and older men who were in Jerusalem. 5 Therefore, indeed, the congregations continued to be made firm in the faith and to increase in number from day to day.

(Acts 6:1-6) 6 Now in these days, when the disciples were increasing, a murmuring arose on the part of the Greek-speaking Jews against the Hebrew-speaking Jews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution. 2 So the twelve called the multitude of the disciples to them and said: “It is not pleasing for us to leave the word of God to distribute [food] to tables. 3 So, brothers, search out for yourselves seven certified men from among YOU, full of spirit and wisdom, that we may appoint them over this necessary business; 4 but we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And the thing spoken was pleasing to the whole multitude, and they selected Stephen, a man full of faith and holy spirit, and Philip and Proch′o·rus and Ni·ca′nor and Ti′mon and Par′me·nas and Nic·o·la′us, a proselyte of Antioch; 6 and they placed them before the apostles, and, after having prayed, these laid their hands upon them

(Galatians 2:8-10) . . .; 9 yes, when they came to know the undeserved kindness that was given me, James and Ce′phas and John, the ones who seemed to be pillars, gave me and Bar′na·bas the right hand of sharing together, that we should go to the nations, but they to those who are circumcised. 10 Only we should keep the poor in mind. This very thing I have also earnestly endeavored to do.


In Acts 9 Ananias lays hands upon Paul for him to recover his sight and to be filled with the holy spirit. Since Paul had the power of the spirit upon his conversion, he already possessed authority necessary to appoint elders, to prophesy, and to teach. (Acts 13:1-3)


The commission placed upon Paul at his conversion through Ananias certainly gave him authority to teach and preach and to prophecy. However, if that laying on of hands commissioned him to do everything, then there would not have been the necessity of a later laying on of hands in Acts 13. It was not until this latter laying on of hands, where we would see a representative of the governing body was present, that Paul is shown to have authority to appoint elders and to give commands to the church.

Is being commissioned directly by the Lord Jesus Christ, functioning as a Christian teacher, i.e., having the authority to dispense biblical truths, stating that you don’t derive your authority from humans (Gal 1), having the spirit of prophecy, and being the founder of multiple Christian congregations throughout the Mediterranean not enough to exercise ecclesiastical authority?


There is only one thing in your list here that would adequately demonstrate ecclesiastical authority, which would be the founding of Christian congregations, but there is no evidence of Paul founding any congregations prior to his having hands laid upon him or prior to his meeting with the Apostles in Jerusalem at the circumcision council.

I will now present Question 2 for Ivan immediately below.
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QUESTION #2 FOR IVAN

Postby Rotherham » Fri Dec 14, 2012 9:39 am

QUESTION #2 FOR IVAN

If each congregation had the authority to appoint older men without supervision, why was Titus commanded to go from CITY to CITY to appoint older men and why does it say that Paul and Barnabas are the ones who appointed older men in many cities?
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ANSWER TO QUESTION #2

Postby Ivanmonroy » Fri Dec 14, 2012 8:22 pm

If each congregation had the authority to appoint older men without supervision, why was Titus commanded to go from CITY to CITY to appoint older men and why does it say that Paul and Barnabas are the ones who appointed older men in many cities?


It is unclear what you mean by appoint elders “without supervision.” I don’t think I’ve ever argued anything like that or framed anything in that manner. As you point out Titus, Paul, and Barnabas had authority to appoint elders in different congregations. If what you are suggesting and/or getting at is that these men formed a centralized body or were representatives of such a body which governed or oversaw these processes, then I would invite you to prove your case.

Certainly appointments of elders (=”overseers”) weren’t “without supervision.” According to 1 Timothy 3 and other texts, there were criterion for such an appointment—mostly dealing with ethics, conduct, and overall character. These elders were installed not to ‘lord over the flock’ (1 Peter 5:3) but to ‘equip the saints for ministry to build up the body of Christ.’ (Eph 4:12)

That Paul and Barnabas were able to appoint elders in different cities says not so much about them or their office but more about the power of the message they distributed. Paul was commissioned by Jesus Christ himself and filled with the spirit upon his conversion. As such, apostleship was something God “gave” to the body of Christ to equip the saints for ministry. (Eph 4:11-12) Since Paul became Christ’s “chosen vessel” upon his conversion, and thus became an Apostle, and an Apostle is one of God’s gifts to the body of Christ, then an Apostle naturally had authority relative to the Congregation. So Paul had authority within the Church upon his conversion. So the fact that Paul and Barnabas were appointing elders means that they had authority within the Church.
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Re: ANSWER TO QUESTION #2-ROTHERHAM'S REBUTTAL

Postby Rotherham » Tue Dec 18, 2012 8:52 am

It is unclear what you mean by appoint elders “without supervision.” I don’t think I’ve ever argued anything like that or framed anything in that manner. As you point out Titus, Paul, and Barnabas had authority to appoint elders in different congregations. If what you are suggesting and/or getting at is that these men formed a centralized body or were representatives of such a body which governed or oversaw these processes, then I would invite you to prove your case.


You had stated in an earlier post the following: "By self-governing I mean the following: elders and other officials were appointed locally (Titus 1:5)"

What we have seen however that it was not just a LOCAL endeavor but involved traveling representatives of that governing body in Jerusalem. Remember, Paul told Titus to go from CITY TO CITY and appoint these men according to HIS instructions. So this appointment was governed by others besides just the local congregation.

What's more, the very fact that the qualifications are spelled out by Paul himself in his letters to Titus and Timothy, shows that these things would have been held by the Apostles in common since it would have been regarded as the word of God. In effect, it would be the Biblical TEACHING as to how to determine the qualifications of these servants in the congregations, so just like any teaching, the congregations would hold to it as a central Apostolic teaching.

I am not sure how you think our appointments take place today, but elders and ministerial servants are recommended for appointment on a local level because it is the local brothers who would obviously knew if they qualified or not. Just as in the first century when they would evidently wait for the arrival of those who had the authority to appoint those ones who were recommended, today we wait until a brother with the authority of the governing body comes around, and he either approves them or not. This is sent to the local branch for the purpose of keeping them updated as to the status of elders and servants. They put the final "stamp" of approval on it and then it is official. They basically follow the recommendation of those traveling brothers, just like Titus, Paul and Barnabas.

We certainly see precedent for this type of process. The first century was under the supervision of those who represented the governing body and their teachings, including the Biblical teachings of how to determine qualification. The exact process is not revealed but to say that such things were not communicated to the Apostles would be guesswork. The point is this: There is Biblical precedent to appoint older men in the congregation in the manner that we do. We clearly see that Paul, as a representative of the governing body, as an Apostle chosen directly by Jesus Christ, and therefore part of that centralized teaching authority, had the authority to appoint others to have the authority to appoint older men, and it all funneled back to Biblical teaching and therefore the Apostolic central authority on that teaching.

Do we do it exactly as they did in the first century? There is surely no way to tell. There's a huge difference between today and back then when communication was much slower. Due to that sluggish communication process, did they give these ones the authority to appoint these men without communication to the governing body. Very possibly, but they were relying strictly upon instructions that were given to them by one of the chosen Apostles, Paul, who could clearly be viewed as a traveling representative of that governing body. We are accomplishing the very same thing today in the same spirit and the same basic outline. Since the appointing of older men was under supervision via representatives of that governing body in the first century, we can accomplish the same thing, even if someone might say it is a tighter supervision. But in the end, when the details are lacking as to the process, the thing to do is to try and pattern ourselves after what we see happening in the first century.

We have never claimed an exact pattern of oversight. What we have claimed is that we attempt as best we can to pattern the first century structure of authority. Is there some guesswork? Sure. But then again, there is still precedent to do things we do. Could it be structured differently? Sure. But whatever structure one would adopt, it would have to be within the realm and reflect the spirit of a Biblically precedented procedure or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

Certainly appointments of elders (=”overseers”) weren’t “without supervision.” According to 1 Timothy 3 and other texts, there were criterion for such an appointment—mostly dealing with ethics, conduct, and overall character. These elders were installed not to ‘lord over the flock’ (1 Peter 5:3) but to ‘equip the saints for ministry to build up the body of Christ.’ (Eph 4:12)


What I mean by "without supervision" is without any outside influence upon the appointment. We see that such was not the case. Those men, bestowed with the authority to do so, went from city to city and appointed older men. That's completely different than a church appointing an elder without the influence of someone with authority, outside the congregation, to oversee the process and to do the actual appointing.


That Paul and Barnabas were able to appoint elders in different cities says not so much about them or their office but more about the power of the message they distributed.


That of course is mere opinion, because there were MANY that distributed the message far and wide, the same powerful message that Paul and those other men did, and it did not mean that they were all out appointing older men in city to city.


Paul was commissioned by Jesus Christ himself and filled with the spirit upon his conversion. As such, apostleship was something God “gave” to the body of Christ to equip the saints for ministry. (Eph 4:11-12) Since Paul became Christ’s “chosen vessel” upon his conversion, and thus became an Apostle, and an Apostle is one of God’s gifts to the body of Christ, then an Apostle naturally had authority relative to the Congregation. So Paul had authority within the Church upon his conversion. So the fact that Paul and Barnabas were appointing elders means that they had authority within the Church.


I couldn't agree more with the statement that they had authority within the church, but all one has to do is to follow their history through the Bible, and they would see that their authority is intrinsically attached to the Apostles and the Apostles were simply the first step in history to keeping the church unified. Although Paul certainly had authority to preach and teach from his conversion, nothing bespeaks his authority within the churches themselves until a representative of that governing body approved of "the laying of hands" upon him. It is from that point forward that he is shown to have ecclesiastical authority in the congregations. To say it happened before that time is again, opinion. One thing we know, it was only after that laying on of hands that he demonstrated any authority. And we know that it was only after the Apostles extended the right hand of sharing to him that he was able to give orders, commands, instructions and deliver decrees to the congregations round about. If one were to take the conservative view, which we often do for fear of presumption, then we are well within our Biblical rights to appoint elders in the manner that we do and to have that intrinsically connected with the current governing body.

The Apostles were only the first historical step with the authority to "adjust" the holy ones in their understanding of things. Ephesians 4:11-17 lists the process to include teachers. This process of correction, and therefore the authority to correct via these teachers, would continue clear down to the end when complete understanding would be achieved. I don't think anyone thinks we are there yet.
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Re: Was there a governing body in the first century?

Postby Ivanmonroy » Tue Dec 18, 2012 12:23 pm

You had stated in an earlier post the following: "By self-governing I mean the following: elders and other officials were appointed locally (Titus 1:5)"

What we have seen however that it was not just a LOCAL endeavor but involved traveling representatives of that governing body in Jerusalem. Remember, Paul told Titus to go from CITY TO CITY and appoint these men according to HIS instructions. So this appointment was governed by others besides just the local congregation.


Yes, elders/overseers and other officials were appointed in and for particular congregations. What I was referring to was that one wasn’t an elder of 5 congregations, for example. They were local elders. But there’s no evidence for the existence of a “travelling representative of a governing body.” Since a GB didn’t exist, then a representative didn’t either. Your burden was to prove a GB not to assume it.

What's more, the very fact that the qualifications are spelled out by Paul himself in his letters to Titus and Timothy, shows that these things would have been held by the Apostles in common since it would have been regarded as the word of God. In effect, it would be the Biblical TEACHING as to how to determine the qualifications of these servants in the congregations, so just like any teaching, the congregations would hold to it as a central Apostolic teaching.


The criterion/qualifications spelled out in the epistles wouldn’t have been something unique to the Apostles but would have been the ethical standard of all the Christian communities. So what you call “Apostolic teaching” is really a misapplication of the phrase. Since all Christians had the spirit given them, the “law” or requirements for an elder would have already been known and accepted as one displaying the fruit(s) of the spirit.

The first century was under the supervision of those who represented the governing body and their teachings, including the Biblical teachings of how to determine qualification. The exact process is not revealed but to say that such things were not communicated to the Apostles would be guesswork. We clearly see that Paul, as a representative of the governing body, as an Apostle chosen directly by Jesus Christ, and therefore part of that centralized teaching authority, had the authority to appoint others to have the authority to appoint older men, and it all funneled back to Biblical teaching and therefore the Apostolic central authority on that teaching.


There is no evidence that you presented thus far which suggests a “governing body” existed and much less that this same GB dispensed teachings which governed congregations, with Paul as one of its representatives. We all make assumptions, but it is one thing to assume small things but quite another to assume the very debate topic. Asserting something’s existence isn’t the same as proving it.

I couldn't agree more with the statement that they had authority within the church, but all one has to do is to follow their history through the Bible, and they would see that their authority is intrinsically attached to the Apostles and the Apostles were simply the first step in history to keeping the church unified. Although Paul certainly had authority to preach and teach from his conversion, nothing bespeaks his authority within the churches themselves until a representative of that governing body approved of "the laying of hands" upon him. It is from that point forward that he is shown to have ecclesiastical authority in the congregations. To say it happened before that time is again, opinion. One thing we know, it was only after that laying on of hands that he demonstrated any authority. And we know that it was only after the Apostles extended the right hand of sharing to him that he was able to give orders, commands, instructions and deliver decrees to the congregations round about. If one were to take the conservative view, which we often do for fear of presumption, then we are well within our Biblical rights to appoint elders in the manner that we do and to have that intrinsically connected with the current governing body.


But Paul’s authority is not attached to the Apostles. He says so himself in Galatians 1-2. In fact, Paul makes it a point that his authority is NOT contingent on them but on Jesus Christ. He argues the opposite of what you are suggesting. And it is not merely the Gospel that he is referring to because a Mediterranean ministry accompanied it. We cannot legitimately assume that Paul’s 14 year ministry prior to his visiting Jerusalem resulted in 0 converts. Since he evidently had a successful ministry which resulted in converts, and these converts weren’t left to fend for themselves but organized into a community, it is obvious Paul appointed elders and had ecclesiastical authority prior to any lying on of hands.

Question #3 to follow
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QUESTION #3

Postby Ivanmonroy » Tue Dec 18, 2012 12:28 pm

You have made it a point to emphasize the laying on of hands and the right hand of sharing. You asserted that Barnabas, as a representative of the Governing Body in Jerusalem, had been sent to Paul to lay hands upon him in order for him to exercise ecclesiastical authority. Question: Where is the biblical mandate for laying on of hands in the NT and how is it that you say Barnabas laid hands upon Paul when it was both of them which had hands laid upon them, according to Acts 13:1-3?
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Re: Was there a governing body in the first century?

Postby Rotherham » Tue Jan 08, 2013 2:55 pm

Hello Ivan,
Looks like about the 15th will be close to when things let up a bit. Sorry for the delay.

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Re: Was there a governing body in the first century?

Postby Rotherham » Fri Jan 25, 2013 2:52 pm

Hello Ivan,

You asked:

You have made it a point to emphasize the laying on of hands and the right hand of sharing. You asserted that Barnabas, as a representative of the Governing Body in Jerusalem, had been sent to Paul to lay hands upon him in order for him to exercise ecclesiastical authority. Question: Where is the biblical mandate for laying on of hands in the NT and how is it that you say Barnabas laid hands upon Paul when it was both of them which had hands laid upon them, according to Acts 13:1-3?




The laying on of hands is considered one of the elementary teachings of Christianity according to Hebrews 6:1,2, so it is clearly a teaching that should be acknowledged. Whenever we see it used, it is used to designate the receiving of holy spirit for a ministerial office or assignment. As a fundamental teaching, we should surely employ it within our Christian understanding.

At Antioch, both Paul and Barnabas were being bestowed with greater authority over the congregations as is witnessed by the fact they are immediately seen to be appointing older men in different congregations round about. This laying on of hands was no doubt the preliminary action for that new aspect or new ministerial office that they received. Paul had earlier had hands laid upon him when he had received the holy spirit for the assignment as the Apostle to the nations when he was healed from his blindness. This one at Antioch was evidently for a further ministerial assignment and evident authority over the congregations which we see follow immediately.

It stands to reason that Barnabas, already having been assigned by the Apostles to go to the Antioch congregation, likely as a representative of them, would have had hands laid upon him for that assignment. At Antioch when they were receiving this further ministerial office and greater authority, hands were laid upon Barnabas again by the older men of Antioch.

Since the holy spirit itself had commissioned to set aside Paul and Barnabas, there was no need for an Apostolic action to assign these men as the holy spirit had done so itself and through some unstated fashion. It may have even been possible that the older men in Antioch had received this message from the holy spirit via the Apostles, the holy spirit relating it to the Apostles first. There's no way to tell exactly how this transpired so different scenarios could be possible. But all in all, nothing here presents any difficulty. But it continues to underline the idea that authority within the congregation was not decided autonomously, it was governed by the Apostles and those ones who had been bestowed with the authority to appoint older men within the congregation. These older men in the congregation were clearly appointed via outside influence and outside authority.

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Response to Rotherham

Postby Ivanmonroy » Sun Jan 27, 2013 1:52 pm

Throughout Rotherham’s presentation we have been given numerous unsubstantiated assertions. This response contains several as well, so it is good to review some of them, beginning with the earlier claim that spawned this question.

“In fact, it was not the Apostolic governing body that directly laid their hands on Paul, but it was through their representative Barnabas who was evidently associated with the congregation at Jerusalem, whom the Apostles had sent to Antioch, that did so. So Paul's authority came via a representative of the governing body participating in the laying on of hands, which signifies divine commission. This event occurred in the first part of Acts 13 at the request of the holy spirit, and therefore preceded any display of authority within the congregations since we do not see Paul appointing any older men until the end of chapter 14, and of course, Barnabas, as a representative of that governing body was also present.”


When asked above where this occurred, rather than provide an example or simply confess this did not occur, the issues is walked around and avoided. The lack of evidence highlighted in his response, “It stands to reason that Barnabas, already having been assigned by the Apostles to go to the Antioch congregation, likely as a representative of them, would have had hands laid upon him for that assignment.” Is there any evidence for this? No. Does Rotherham expect us to simply accept his “reason” because it fits his theological construct? Yes. But this also directly contradicts his earlier argument on this authority Barnabas would have supposedly been bestowed when “the right hand of sharing” was extended to Paul and Barnabas. Had Barnabas already been bestowed with authority to act as the Governing Body’s representative in Acts 13, the meaning of “right hand of sharing” could not be this authority, but “a pact of cooperation” (A.T. Robertson’s Word Pictures) in the rejection of those teaching circumcision.

This is not the first occurrence of such argumentation. Consider the earlier, related claim by Rotherham:

“Paul's conversion came far before he ever exercised authority toward any congregation and it wasn't until the Apostles laid their hands upon him and extended the "right hand of sharing" as recorded in Galatians that he exercised any authority whatsoever, in fact, those Apostolic actions in his behalf happened before he ever received inspiration to pen any letter in the Bible.”


While it is true that Paul’s inspired letters came after he met with ones in Jerusalem, Rotherham does not present any evidence supporting the claim that his authority over the congregations and to write those letters was derived from the apostles in Jerusalem. It has already been demonstrated that Paul exercised authority much earlier than this. This is a true non sequitur.

Similarly, Rotherham has repeatedly insisted, and correctly so, that the early Christians followed the teachings of the apostles. Yet he has not demonstrated what he has essentially argued for, which is apostolic succession, showing that a group would remain (or later reappear) possessing this same authority. Showing that the teaching of the apostles is what was followed shows that they, following Jesus, established the church and taught the earliest members, it does not show that a fixed body would remain (or later return after an absence), presenting new or revised teachings.

Rotherham would have us believe that the apostles might have first received the command at Acts 13:2 to send Paul and Barnabas, but again, where is the evidence? It is presented only as a possibility, but the text leaves little room for this idea. The matter is presented as something occurring in the midst of prayer and fasting, not a message that was delivered to them.

“But it continues to underline the idea that authority within the congregation was not decided autonomously, it was governed by the Apostles and those ones who had been bestowed with the authority to appoint older men within the congregation. These older men in the congregation were clearly appointed via outside influence and outside authority.”


Men were appointed from outside of the congregation, but this did not always originate with the apostles in Jerusalem (Acts 14:23), and once they were established, as Acts 13 demonstrates, things were in fact often decided autonomously, as directed by the Holy Spirit. That the apostles had authority and their teachings were followed does not show they acted as a governing body and it does not show the existence of appointed successors (apostolic succession), as is claimed.
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Response to Ivan from Rotherham

Postby Rotherham » Mon Jan 28, 2013 3:49 pm

It seems that some of the problems that Ivan sees with my response is hardly related to the issues at hand. Rather than dealing with the information, it appears he wants to attack the style of delivery.

As dialogue progresses one often sees where adjustments in their argumentation are necessary in order to be more accurate or consistent. Yes, I changed the manner in which I understood the progression of how hands were laid upon Paul and Barnabas. That is of little consequence to the fact that hands were indeed laid upon them after the holy spirit singled them out for an additional missionary assignment.

Rather than address the fact that the laying on of hands is a fundamental Christian teaching according to Hebrews 6:1,2, Ivan simply targets the fact that I changed my understanding of the progression of how hands were laid upon Paul and Barnabas at Antioch. He asks how do we know that Barnabas had hands laid upon him by the Apostles when he was assigned to go to Antioch? It simply stands to reason since we know that as a fundamental teaching of Christianity, we see it happen in numerous places when one received a special ministerial assignment. The argument that it is not specifically stated is weak when we know that it did happen in regard to ministerial assignments. The real question would be, what would make one think that the Apostles would not perform this fundamental action upon Barnabas when assigned to go to Antioch. The objection is clearly just by design with an agenda attached to it.

It should be scripturally clear that Barnabas did not receive the right hand of sharing as to the governing body until the Jerusalem council took place. This assignment that was bestowed upon him at Antioch would not be the "right hand of sharing" that was given to him and Paul at the timing of the Jerusalem Council, but it would have been an assignment of greater proportion and authority then what either had possessed before they received it. When they later received the right hand of sharing with the governing body, the Apostles and older men in Jerusalem, this also no doubt included the laying on of hands as a greater authority and responsibility had been laid upon them. To think otherwise is to discount the very fundamental teaching involving the laying on of hands and what it was for.

A simple reading of the scriptures and an understanding of the timeline of events reveals that Paul exercised greater authority over the congregations after his being given the right hand of sharing by the Apostles and older men at Jerusalem. Yes, he had SOME authority before this event. He was able to appoint older men in the congregations round about. But, after this right hand of sharing was extended, he had authority to instruct the congregations in may areas, and to give authority to others to appoint older men in other congregations, something that was apparently absent before this sharing was extended, or at least could be successfully argued. It is entirely harmonious with the scriptures to see this as a logical consequence of this right hand of sharing.

There is no such thing as Apostolic succession. You've completely misunderstood something along the way. However, Eph. 4 :11-17 clearly shows that AFTER the Apostles would pass away, there would be other gifts in men that would carry on the same kind of unifying activity that the Apostles were practicing. No, they weren't successors to the Apostles. They were clearly identified as teachers, prophets and evangelizers that would carry on the Apostles efforts of maintaining unity within Christianity. As time would go on these "gifts" would certainly not be inspired in their writings, nor possess the gifts of the spirit that was greatly advantageous to the Apostles. So there is no such thing as Apostolic succession, but there is clearly a succession of those gifts in men who are to continue to protect the flock from being carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching which would destroy the unity of the Christian congregation. Since God clearly condemns sectarianism and division within his congregation, one should be able to see the unmistakable need for those gifts in men and the maintenance of Christian unity.

Ivan often uses as his defense the argument from silence which can be regarded as a logical fallacy. He seems to appeal to the idea that if its not stated a certain way, then it didn't happen. Most realize that such an approach is a fallacy. Because something is not stated does not mean that it did not happen. For instance, it stands to reason that the fundamental teaching of the laying on of hands as a gesture indicating a greater ministerial assignment, happened many times without it being spelled out in detail every time it happened.

As far as the appointment of older men being supervised by the governing body on Jerusalem, there may be no way to definitely prove that's what they were doing, but surely there is no way to prove otherwise. If it is within the realm of possibility, then a religious group can not be faulted or criticized for seeing it what way and practicing in harmony with what they perceive. It is abundantly clear that Paul is the one who appointed both Titus and Timothy to the assignment of appointing older men, and since it is entirely feasible by the time he did so, he was a representative of the governing body, then there is a direct connection of those appointments with the governing body. Paul said to do this according to "his instructions". Did they include reporting to the governing body, or at least to him, those whom were being appointed? How can one prove that it didn't? Today, it would simply be a Biblically allowable organizational practice to perform these appointments in this manner. To say that scriptural protocol is being violated is to invent arguments that do not exist within the pages of the Bible. There is simply not enough evidence to prove the issue either way.

But the facts stand that older men were appointed by individuals OUTSIDE the local congregation, who had the authority to do so. They were not appointed autonomously by the individual congregations as well was claimed. Whether these appointments were filtered through the central governing element is debatable, but certainly not deniable or inappropriate from a Biblical standpoint. Any religion that would notify a central governing element of these appointments of older men are certainly well within their scriptural rights to do so.

As it stands , it is agreed that the Apostles served as a central body of authority when it came to the teachings and Ephesians 4:11-17 teaches us directly that the process of unification and correction when necessary would continue until full knowledge will abound. To deny the message of Ephesians would be extremely odd to say the least. And it is agreed that at least some outside authority was necessary in order to appoint older men within the congregations. I am beginning to wonder what exactly are we continuing to debate? It sounds like it comes down to things of preference in regards to protocol, which in the end becomes a matter of opinion and entirely allowable within the scope of organizational procedures that are covered by the Bible.

I will follow soon with my next question to Ivan.

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Rotherham
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Question #3 to Ivan

Postby Rotherham » Tue Jan 29, 2013 12:32 pm

This question requires some setup.

In an earlier conclusion you stated:

Rotherham’s opening statement was in many ways addressing a position that I never denied. No rational person would ever deny a “governing element” existed in the first century, especially given the existence of the Apostles. The debate topic concerns the (non)existence of a Governing Body. What is meant by “Governing Body” ought to be clear. Since this is a specific theological term unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses, then it ought to be obvious what Rotherhan’s responsibility is in this debate—namely, the burden to prove that a GB (as Jehovah’s Witnesses understand the phrase) existed in the first century. Rather than handle this responsibility, it would appear Rotherham has sidestepped it and changed the topic from “Governing BODY” to “Governing ELEMENT.”


I see this as some sort of distinction without a real difference. I am using the term "element" and "body" interchangeably. The body is the element and the elelment is the body from my standpoint. What difference are you seeing and what seemingly important differentiation are you trying to make?

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Re: Question #3 to Ivan

Postby Ivanmonroy » Fri Mar 01, 2013 8:21 am

Rotherham wrote:This question requires some setup.

In an earlier conclusion you stated:

Rotherham’s opening statement was in many ways addressing a position that I never denied. No rational person would ever deny a “governing element” existed in the first century, especially given the existence of the Apostles. The debate topic concerns the (non)existence of a Governing Body. What is meant by “Governing Body” ought to be clear. Since this is a specific theological term unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses, then it ought to be obvious what Rotherhan’s responsibility is in this debate—namely, the burden to prove that a GB (as Jehovah’s Witnesses understand the phrase) existed in the first century. Rather than handle this responsibility, it would appear Rotherham has sidestepped it and changed the topic from “Governing BODY” to “Governing ELEMENT.”


I see this as some sort of distinction without a real difference. I am using the term "element" and "body" interchangeably. The body is the element and the elelment is the body from my standpoint. What difference are you seeing and what seemingly important differentiation are you trying to make?

Regards,
Rotherham


The term governing body in our context is derived from Watchtower publications and we have as a definition both what they have written on the subject and the function of the modern Governing Body. While this can be termed a governing element, what we find in the New Testament is a governing element of a different form.



You have several times mentioned how the church followed the teachings of the apostles, but did the apostles sit down as this body and define those teachings? This is not found in the New Testament. Instead, the evidence would suggest they brought with them what Jesus taught and what was later revealed by the holy spirit, and this was their teaching. When one apostle received a revelation individually it was accepted as a teaching of the apostles, such as when Peter learned gentiles were to be accepted within the church. It did not take a gathering of a body to accept this teaching and spread it among the congregations. Similarly, individual apostles had authority to make congregational appointments without commission from any governing body, as in the case of the apostle Paul, as previously noted. While you have offered speculation and conjecture to get around these points, you have failed to present evidence against these points.



The apostles’ authority did not come from a governing body but from each individual’s individual apostolic office. It is therefore in this capacity that they wrote their various letters in the New Testament and in this capacity that they could appoint ones to be elders, etc. We do not see the New Testament consisting of letters from a governing body, but from one, two or three individual Christians with authority, who were most often apostles.
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Re: Question #3 to Ivan

Postby Rotherham » Tue Mar 19, 2013 8:53 am

Hello Ivan,

It appears your response overlooks some things that have already been established via the scriptures.

The term governing body in our context is derived from Watchtower publications and we have as a definition both what they have written on the subject and the function of the modern Governing Body. While this can be termed a governing element, what we find in the New Testament is a governing element of a different form.


But thus far, this significant difference has nowhere been established.


You have several times mentioned how the church followed the teachings of the apostles, but did the apostles sit down as this body and define those teachings? This is not found in the New Testament. Instead, the evidence would suggest they brought with them what Jesus taught and what was later revealed by the holy spirit, and this was their teaching.


Again, this is a distinction without a significant difference. Despite the manner in which they established doctrine, either sitting down AS THEY DID at the Jerusalem meeting in Acts 15 and ESTABLISHED a DECREE for all congregation to observe, or whether they were inspired by God to pen certain books and letters which also established Christian teaching, the result is the same. They were indeed a governing element that established the teachings for the church.

When one apostle received a revelation individually it was accepted as a teaching of the apostles, such as when Peter learned gentiles were to be accepted within the church. It did not take a gathering of a body to accept this teaching and spread it among the congregations.


But this isn't accurate. Immediately after the Cornelius event, the Aposltes learned of what happened and Peter went to them to explain what happened. After he was questioned primarily by those of the "circumcision" (an issue yet unresolved) they all accepted what happened to Peter. Even though Peter indidivdually was given this honor to open the door for Gentiles, it shows the immediate awareness and response of both Peter, the Aposltes and the older men in Jerusalem in order for everyone to remain unified.

Similarly, individual apostles had authority to make congregational appointments without commission from any governing body, as in the case of the apostle Paul, as previously noted. While you have offered speculation and conjecture to get around these points, you have failed to present evidence against these points.


Vice versa. Our understanding of these events is in harmony with what the scriptures say here and elsewhere. I am surprised the you take issue with something like this. Is this not within the realm of possibilities? Does it contradict what we have seen elsewhere? Could it not easily harmonize with what we've seen elsewhere?

The apostles’ authority did not come from a governing body but from each individual’s individual apostolic office. It is therefore in this capacity that they wrote their various letters in the New Testament and in this capacity that they could appoint ones to be elders, etc. We do not see the New Testament consisting of letters from a governing body, but from one, two or three individual Christians with authority, who were most often apostles.



But again, this is a distinction without a difference. Firstly, the benefit of direct inspiration and the gifts of the spirit, one which gave the the ability to discern inspired writings, was a great benefit in many ways. It doesn't matter whether they all wrote the book together or not, because they, via those gifts, would KNOW that it was from God and it would naturally be accepted by them all as part of the Christian library of teachings. Then, the Christian congregation would adhere to the teachings of the Aposltes which came directly from God.

Ephesians 4:11-17 takes us PAST the time of the Apostles and PAST the time of direct inspiration. Yet, the work of UNIFYING the church via those GIFTS to men would continue until some time in the future until full understanding would take place. In other words, its a process that we would expect to be happening even NOW. And it is a process that would be most necessary during the HARVEST when the separation of the wheat and the weeds would occur. Things and people causing stumbling would have to be weeded out and that would definitely require the process mentioned at Ephesians 4:11-17.

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Re: Was there a governing body in the first century?

Postby Rotherham » Thu Dec 26, 2013 9:34 am

"At this point, as of the above date, March-2013, Ivan Monroy has stopped responding."

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